S. Vydhianathan

For common variety it is fixed at Rs 645 a quintal and for Grade A variety it is Rs 675

CHENNAI: Paddy growing farmers in the State, especially those in the delta districts, are upset over the new minimum support price fixed by the Government of India.

The MSP for common variety is Rs 645 a quintal and for Grade A variety Rs 675 a quintal compared to Rs 620 and Rs 650 during the previous season (2006-07). The increase is Rs 25, which is much below their expectation.

On the other hand the Centre had increased the MSP for wheat by Rs 150 a quintal compared to the last season. The MSP which was Rs 700 a quintal during 2006-07 has been increased to Rs 850 including Rs 100 as incentive bonus. The Government has given incentive bonus to wheat farmers; it has not extended the same concession to the paddy farmers.

S.Ranganathan, general secretary of the Cauvery Delta Farmers Association, said the increase in MSP for paddy in the last four years was just 17 per cent compared to 35 per cent in the case of wheat. The cultivation cost of paddy is Rs 9,000 to Rs 10,000 per acre and the cost of paddy production worked out to Rs 950 to Rs 1,000 per quintal. So the MSP should be fixed at Rs 1,000 a quintal.

He said over the years the cost of cultivation had increased substantially. There had been a substantial fall in the availability of agriculture labour in rural areas ultimately leading to increase in the labour cost. Again the government announced an incentive of Rs 100 a quintal only for wheat and not for paddy. If paddy farmers did not get a remunerative price then they had no option but to give up agriculture. He said a time would come when the government would be forced to give incentives to farmers for growing paddy.

Vice-president of the Special Committee for Agriculture Development K.S.Alagiri said the committee, appointed by the State Government, had already submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister, United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi requesting them to fix an MSP of Rs 1,000 a quintal for paddy. He felt that wheat lobby was strong enough to get more price compared to paddy.

A.R. Kalyanam, general secretary of the Federation of Farmers Associations, said in 1977 the difference in MSP between paddy and wheat was only Rs 10 a quintal, which was now Rs 105 for common and Rs 75 for grade A variety. Though there was no difference in the cost of production between the two, wheat was getting priority due to wheat lobby. He regretted that the Tamil Nadu Government had failed to represent the paddy farmers’ case properly to the Centre. “It was a gross injustice to paddy farmers.” If the Central Government continued to adopt a partisan attitude towards the paddy farmers, they would be forced to give up farming.

Meanwhile the Tamil Nadu Government had written to the Centre requesting it to consider sanction of incentive bonus for paddy as it did for wheat. At present there was a wide variation between the market price of paddy and the MSP fixed by the Centre. The rate of increase in MSP for paddy was not commensurate with the market trend and it was also not comparable to other major foodgrains such as wheat. Either the MSP for paddy had to be fixed at a higher level or a special incentive price for paddy should be announced.