The Kerala government has initiated action to counter the entry of retail majors like Wal-Mart and Reliance Industries into the state by providing huge subsidies for producing vegetables.

Steps have been taken to see that the state agriculture department undertakes early procurement from the production centres so as to eliminate middlemen.

Addressing reporters here Tuesday, Agriculture Minister Mullakara Ratnakaran said that his department had started cluster farming of vegetables in a big way in Idukki district, bordering Tamil Nadu.

"We will begin by giving Rs.15,000 subsidy per hectare to farmers to engage in production of vegetables. We will supply the seeds and enter into an agreement with them to collect the produce. There would be no middlemen so that the farmers get higher prices," he said.

Reliance is all set to open huge super markets in select locations in the state and to counter these the agriculture department would open big vegetable markets in major cities in the state.

"Initially we are going to provide vegetable kits at a cost of Rs.9. This kit would be enough for a family for a day. For this we are providing a subsidy of 25 percent. This would begin Feb 15 and would go on for two months," said Ratnakaran.

State Cooperation Minister G. Sudhakaran also announced Tuesday that his department would open about 5,700 centres to sell basic provision items and will make effective market intervention to arrest spiralling prices.

"This would begin on an experimental basis for two months and for this we have got a subsidy of nearly Rs.300 million. This is basically meant to tackle the MNCs and we are planning to extend the programme beyond two months," said Sudhakaran.
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