Thiruvananthpuram: The Agriculture department's Onasamrudhi fairs selling pesticide-free vegetables and fruits, procured from farmers at affordable prices, have been a good draw. But officials were not sure of the source of vegetables such as big onion, shallot, potato, cauliflower and cabbage, procured by Horticorp.
Onasamrudhi has been launched by the Agriculture department, Vegetable and Fruit Promotion Council, Horticorp, allied organisations under the agriculture department, cooperative organisations, local self bodies and Kudumbashree units.
Initially it was feared that officials would fail as sustaining the initiative may not have been possible. But the response indicates it has been a success. Authorities are procuring pesticide-free vegetables from farmers and farmer clusters, and selling them at a 30 percent discount rate. But agricultural officers expressed concern over one agency, Horticorp.
"We are not aware where Horticorp is sourcing these vegetables as it is not commonly cultivated within the State except in some places like Kanthalloor and Vattavada in Idukki district. We understand that it is coming from neighbouring States and may not be free of pesticides", said a senior agriculture department official to DC.
However, Ranjan. S. Karippai, Horticorp director, told DC that there was no other option but to procure such vegetables from neighbouring States. But officials are keen to see that project Onasamrudhi should be continued so that farmers are motivated to cultivate more pesticide-free vegetables.
An apex committee comprising the assistant director of agriculture, farmers' representative, Horticorp, Vegetable and Fruit Promotion Council and block panchayat member finalize the price of the day.
"Our five-member committee ensures quality control of the imported vegetables though we have not yet fixed any standards. We had rejected the lemon used for making pickles procured from the capital city and tomato and carrot procured from Ernakulam. Remedial measures have been taken to prevent rotten vegetables being imported to the State", said Mr. Karippai.