A section of farmers in Kerala in the near future will be entitled to get a share of the profits from farm produce, instead of the usual minimum income they have been getting.
The state Agriculture Department, based on the recommendations of a committee that drafted the scheme, has decided to give a share of the profits to farmers. This is termed as Actio Apportum (a Greek word) which means Avakasa Labham (deserved profit).
The idea is to take a portion of the profit from trading the farm produce, from which value-added products are made and distribute it to farmers.
â€śThis will benefit a section of farmers whose produce is used to make value added products. For example, for a litre of milk, a farmer gets only Rs 35 whereas the profit of Milma by selling the value-added products from the milk is Rs 185. Once the policy is implemented, a portion of the profit will be given to farmers,â€ť Minister for Agriculture VS Sunilkumar told TNM.
The Avakasa Labham assures legal right to farmers in the share of the profits. At the same time, it ensures that no loss is caused for those who make value-added products from the farm produce.
â€śThis will get done by imposing a cess on the farm produce at the point of sale. The Finance Department is working out how it can be done,â€ť Sunil Kumar said.
He claimed that the policy is novel in the country and no other state has come out with a similar initiative. â€śFarmers are committing suicide in many states of the country owing to debt and farming is largely becoming a non-profitable occupation. We are keen that it should not be so in Kerala. Avakasha Labham was in the election manifesto of the Left Democratic Front and we are implementing to keep the promise to the farmers,â€ť the Minister added.
The Agriculture department has been discussing the method of implementing the scheme with the State Planning Board. The Minister also said that the scheme will be implemented for all crops gradually. Farmers in all sectors will get the benefit though in the initial phase, coconut and paddy farmers will stand to gain from it. The minister in a special statement in the Assembly last week had proposed the introduction of the scheme based on Avakasa Labham.
The concept was first proposed in the state Agricultural policy of 2015.
MLA K Krishnankutty is a well-known farmer as well as chairman of the committee that drafted the policy. He said, â€śThe aim is to make sure that a farmer gets an income at least equal to that of class four state government employees to keep his life going. While a class four employee gets Rs 18,000 per month, a farmer with agricultural land of five acres doesn't even get Rs 5,000 per month.â€ť
It is estimated that over 40 lakh tonnes of rice are being sold in Kerala every year. â€śThe assessment is that if the government collects a cess of one rupee on one kilogram of rice, an amount of Rs 400 crore can be generated. To give Rs 15,000 as bonus for farmers in the sector and Rs 2,500 for three labourers employed by each farmer, Rs 50 crore will be enough. A farmer selling three tonnes of rice to the state will be eligible for a payment of Rs 15,000 as Avakasa Labham. The objective is to provide the farmers with provident fund and similar benefits as that of a government employee to keep them in farming,â€ť the MLA added.
The draft policy was prepared by a committee in which experts from departments of Agriculture, Animal Husbandry and Agricultural University were members.