In a major step towards connecting with the markets in the remote corners of the country, fresh fruits and vegetables from Maharashtra will be sent by air, at subsidised freight, to the North-East region and Jammu & Kashmir.
The pilot project is being introduced by the Fadnavis Government for subsidising the air freight charges for a period of up to six months. Before month-end, the first consignment of 20 tonnes of pomegranate and tomatoes from Nashik will fly to Aizawl.
Probably for the first time in the country, subsidies on air freight are being provided by a State government.
The flight will not return empty as local farm produce from Mizoram such as organic ginger and dragon fruits will be brought back to Maharashtra. The subsidy component that works up to ₹64/kg will be provided by the Maharashtra government. A senior State government officer told BusinessLine that if the goods are sent by rail or road to the North-East, the average cost is ₹11 per kg and if it is sent by air then it is ₹75. But, as a promotional scheme, the State government, through the Maharashtra State Agriculture Marketing Board, will provide the subsidy.
The scheme is a part of the Atal Mahapanan Vikas Abhiyan, the flagship programme of the Cooperative Department of the Maharashtra government, under which 5,000 primary agriculture co-operatives are being strengthened.
Under this programme, agriculture and horticulture products would be marketed across the country. The programme has been ideated by the Co-operative Minister Subash Deshmukh. The Minister is also the founder of Lokmangal Group, a diversified conglomerate based out of Solapur.
The State government official said that talks are on with Jammu & Kashmir and all the governments of the North-East States.
The primary agriculture cooperatives and Farmer Producer Companies in Maharashtra will sell their produce, which would bought by similar co-operative bodies in these States.
The technical expertise for the project is being provided by Halcon, a joint venture of Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd and Container Corporation of India Ltd.