The Karnataka unit of the Consortium of Indian Farmers' Associations and the Karnataka Sugarcane Growers' Association have urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to remove all controls on sugar as an immediate step to help farmers in distress.

The leaders of the consortium and president of the association Kurubur Shanthakumar met Dr. Singh in New Delhi on Monday. They drew his attention to the continued exploitation of farmers in the absence of a policy on remunerative prices for agricultural produce in the country. They said that farmers were facing severe financial hardship due to the increased cost of cultivation and lack of remunerative prices for their crops.

‘Losing hope'

They submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister, a copy of which was sent to The Hindu.

In it, they said farmers were losing hope and did not think that their prospects would improve and so they were considering giving it up and looking for other sources of livelihood. This posed a direct threat to food production in the country. They added that farmers were discriminated against as the Government did not encourage the agricultural sector on a par with industries, which were supported by incentives, tax-free holidays and freedom to fix prices for their products.

Remunerative pricing

In the memorandum, they also sought establishment of a mechanism to fix remunerative prices for agricultural produce as per the M.S. Swaminathan Commission report, removal of levy on sugar, state advisory price (SAP) for paddy, minimum support price for turmeric and onion, imposition of 35 per cent import duty on silk and cotton, amendment to crop insurance scheme, debt relief for farmers in the event of crop loss on the lines of support given for revival of sick industries.

The leaders also urged the Prime Minister to convene a round-table, involving experts from agriculture, finance, co-operation, industry, management and related fields, to take a threadbare view of Indian agriculture, its prospects and conditions of domestic growers, and evolve a strong, pro-farmer agricultural policy before it was too late.