Move to review procurement policy will meet with stiff opposition: farmers

As the debate surrounding the review of the open-ended procurement policy has started gaining momentum following a recommendation by the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Price (CACP) to the Centre government, several farmers and farmer bodies in key grain-producing States of Punjab and Haryana have hinted that any move to stop or limit the purchase of wheat and rice at the Minimum Support Price (MSP) would be opposed in the strongest possible manner.

Agri-experts also believe that the current policy is in the best interests of the country and farmers and any deviation could have negative impact on them.

In its Price Policy for Rabi crops - the marketing season 2020-21, the CACP has said: “The open-ended procurement policy for rice and wheat has led to mounting food stocks and adversely affected crop diversification. These excess stocks create storage problems and also high storage and financing costs leading to high food subsidy burden. The Commission recommends that open-ended procurement policy should be reviewed.

“The CACP has given its recommendation in the backdrop of mounting food stocks, which raises the fear that the Centre would limit procurement as a first step towards putting an end to the MSP purchase. There’s no point in considering any such review. Any change in the MSP procurement policy will adversely impact the farmers and the economy of both States,” said Jagmohan Singh, State general secretary of the Bhartiya Kisan Union Ekta (Dakaunda).

Expressing similar sentiments Sarvan Singh Pandher, general secretary of the Punjab unit of the Kisan Mazdoor Sangarsh Smiti, said: “The farmers are managing to survive only because wheat and paddy here are purchased at the MSP. If this process is stopped or even limited, it would be nothing short of ‘signing their death warrant’. Farmers are already under financial distress. Most of the crops other than wheat and paddy don’t get remunerative price causing huge loss to farmers..”

Pargat Singh, who has sown wheat in his 14-acre farm at Rolu Majra village in district Rupnagar, said a reason cited by the CACP for review is that the policy has led to mounting food stocks and adversely affected crop diversification. “The reality, however, is that farmers are not being taken out of this cycle [wheat/paddy]. To bring crop diversification, the need is to fix proper remuneration and assured market. The government should ensure a mechanism where farmers can get an assured remunerative price for crops cultivated by them other than wheat and paddy.”

Under its present policy, the Central government extends price support to the two crops through the FCI and the State agencies. The wheat and paddy offered within the stipulated period and conforming to the specifications prescribed by the Centre are purchased at the MSP by the government agencies including the FCI.

The objective of procurement is to ensure that farmers get remunerative prices and do not have to resort to distress sale. It aims at serving the National Food Security Act and other welfare schemes so that subsidised foodgrains are supplied to the poor and needy and build buffer-stocks to ensure foodgrain security.

Noted economists at the Ludhiana-based Punjab Agricultural University, Prof. M.S. Sidhu said: “The present policy is in the best interests of the country. Wheat and rice are basic food items. How will the NFSA be implemented? We need to understand the fact that there are few surplus States and production of wheat is limited to a few States. There’s an inter-State movement of foodgrains — from surplus States to deficit States,” said Mr. Sidhu.

Haryana-based farmer leader Gun Parkash of the Bharatiya Kisan Union points out that the budgetary allocation for food subsidy has declined this year. “There has been a decline in the allocations to the FCI for lifting the foodgrains. This has resulted in the FCI being under huge debt. The concern now is that this would be used as a pretext to dismantle the open-ended procurement policy in the days to come,” said Mr. Parkash.

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2022 2:01:59 AM |

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