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Farm think tank’s formula to redress agriculture distress

Novel protest:Farmers threw vegetables on the roads as part of their protest in Nagpur. Farmers in several States are on strike over various demands, mainly waiver of loan and free electricity.File photo S. Sudershan

Novel protest:Farmers threw vegetables on the roads as part of their protest in Nagpur. Farmers in several States are on strike over various demands, mainly waiver of loan and free electricity.File photo S. Sudershan  

MSP be fixed at least 50% more than the weighted average cost

The Indian Council of Food and Agriculture (ICFA), an agriculture think tank, has suggested to the Centre to consider its seven-point formula to redress farmers’ distress across the country.

ICFA chairman M.J. Khan, who on Friday met Union Minister for Rural Development Narendra Singh in the backdrop of ongoing farmers agitation in many States, pointed out that assuring a decent income for the farmers was vital, and, therefore, the recommendations of the National Commission on Farmers (Swaminathan Commission) on the minimum support prices (MSP) for crops must be fixed at levels of at least 50% more than the weighted average cost of production.

“This will help enhance profitability in agriculture by ensuring a minimum of 50% profits over the cost of production,” Mr. Khan said, adding that easily accessible procurement centres could to some extent help farmers.

Mr. Khan said good rains last year that followed two consecutive drought years raised the expectations of a bountiful harvest, which was indeed realised. However, the prices plummeted, thus not helping farmers emerge from the debts accrued in the previous season owing to poor monsoon.

Adverse factors

“This forced farmers to take to the streets, demanding support from the government. Loan waivers by neighbouring States made matters worse and demands for similar actions erupted among farmers. Besides, farmers are plagued perennially by the lack of infrastructure, poor knowledge of market demands, price fluctuation, dependence on monsoon among many other factors,” he said.

Mr. Khan said opening of domestic and international markets for free trade is a major stabiliser of prices, which could help farmers in realising better profit prospects.

Suggesting that operating futures markets across all farm produce as another effective strategy to offset the uncertainties associated with price fluctuations of agricultural commodities, Mr. Khan said futures contract route helped farmers decide on trade for a standing crop at a future date at a price agreed before the harvest.

“This is a suitable instrument to offset risks associated with price dip arising out of peak harvest seasons,” he added. Mr. Khan also batted for establishing a national network of Panchayat level rural growth centres that would create village-level agri-businesses and connect farmers with institutions, banks, technologies and markets.

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