The Budget may include a plan to allow farmers to open their own retail markets in the metros. The proposal has come from the food and civil supplies ministry.
The recent rise in retail prices of several agriculture commodities has been largely blamed on inefficient marketing, which also denies farmers a fair price. These markets are to be operated by farmers or their representative bodies. The central government will fund 80 per cent of the cost.
Officials said the proposal and funding could be included in the coming budget and preliminary discussions have been held with finance ministry officials.
"We have sent a proposal for grant of funds to the food ministry for starting farmer markets in metropolitan cities, because as per our discussions with states, they are willing to finance 20 per cent of the funds required for starting such a scheme, while the rest has to be borne by the Centre," Food Minister K V Thomas told Business Standard.
He said nine such markets were operating successfully in Kerala. The ministry is working on a similar programme for Delhi, wherein it plans to open three model fish markets, run by fisherfolk with help from the city government.
India's food inflation for the week ended February 5 dropped to 11.05 per cent because of the falling price of potatoes and onions, but before that inflation had climbed to 18.32 per cent for the week ended December 25.
Though largely blamed on a spurt in onion prices and rising fuel costs, many farm scientists believe it could have been tackled if marketing of agricultural produce had been better.
"The onion crisis that we saw in December (when prices jumped by Rs. 30-40 per kg in just a few days), was entirely manmade and could have been easily averted. What we need is reforms in the agricultural marketing chain and streamlining procurement from farmers," agricultural scientist M S Swaminathan said at a recent seminar on agriculture and nutrition.
He said food inflation would remain a matter of concern in urban areas because of lack of reforms in marketing of farm produce.
Even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had called for a second green revolution to focus on marketing of agricultural produce.