Chinks within the armour

Ruchika M Khanna

FOR years, the Minimum Support Price (MSP) system for crops has benefited farmers in north India by way of assured earnings for his or her produce. No marvel the system is held sacrosanct by farmers, politicians and policy-makers on this area. Even the slightest try or speak of tinkering with the MSP meets with stiff resistance from the farmers and the politicians who depend on them for electoral help.

The almost five-decade-old system of MSP has contributed to the nation attaining meals safety — a minimum of within the staple foodgrains — apart from making agriculture economically sustainable for farmers. It has helped the nation come a great distance from the mid-1960s, when India didn’t have sufficient foodgrains to feed its then 49 crore inhabitants, and 10 million tonnes of foodgrains had been imported from the US. “The MSP regime has proved to be very beneficial because it has spurred farmers to grow crops with a guaranteed price,” says BS Sidhu, Commissioner, Agriculture, Punjab.

Over the years, nevertheless, the rise in MSP introduced by the Centre earlier than every crop advertising season has been somewhat low. This has contributed to excessive rural indebtedness as enter prices in agriculture hold rising and the MSP introduced by the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) is minimal, thus squeezing the earnings of farmers. Sidhu says the system of calculating the enter prices whereas fixing the MSP requires a relook. “The farmer should be treated as a skilled worker and the capital cost of land should be included. This will make the MSP more remunerative,” he provides.

Besides this inherent weak spot within the MSP mannequin of capping the earnings of farmers, it has additionally led to regional disparities because the regime is profitable solely in states having a well-developed agricultural advertising system. In most states, the crops are usually not being purchased on the MSP as FCI intervention there’s minimal and centered largely on Punjab and Haryana. Sukhdev Singh Kokri Kalan, common secretary of Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan), says the MSP regime is commonly focused for serving to farmers of just a few states and people who develop solely wheat and paddy. “To ensure that it benefits all farmers, it should be made legally binding on all to buy crops at the announced MSP,” he provides.

Balbir Singh Rajewal, who heads one other faction of the BKU, says not solely ought to crops apart from wheat and paddy be purchased on the MSP, however authorities must also encourage the processing business for these different crops. “Earlier, pulses like moong and urad were cultivated here and we had small dal polishing units in Jagraon. Farmers stopped growing these because against the MSP of Rs 6,000, they would get just Rs 2,500 per quintal. Farmers found these non-remunerative and stopped growing pulses, which also led to the closure of these polishing units,” he laments.

Umendra Dutt, govt director of Kheti Virasat Manch, says the monoculture supported by the MSP regime has led to the destruction of agricultural biodiversity and big consumption of pesticides. “If buying of other crops at the MSP is ensured, we would become self-sufficient in all crops,” he says.

Noted agro-economist MS Sidhu says although the MSP regime is sacrosanct, there’s a want to extend farmers’ earnings by making them transfer to non-farm actions together with farming. Also, he says, it’s time for worth addition in agriculture by selling meals processing.

Monoculture a roadblock

With the MSP regime being primarily restricted to wheat and paddy, this has led to monoculture, the place solely crops having a buy-back assure are being cultivated by farmers. As a consequence, the nation has ample shares of wheat and rice, however has to steadily import pulses and oilseeds.

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