Mustard prices continue to stay below MSP; industry body urges government intervention

Farmers fear that prices will slip further with arrival of new mustard crop by next month, as they expect record harvest

By Shagun
Published: Wednesday 21 February 2024
Mustard farmers have been seeing losses for the second consecutive year. Photo: iStock

Even as farmers’ protest asking for a legal guarantee of minimum support price (MSP) enters its ninth day on February 21, 2024, the edible oil industry has sought the central government’s intervention in preventing the trading of mustard crops below MSP. 

The current price for mustard was ruling below its MSP of Rs 5,650 per quintal announced for the rabi marketing season 2024-25. In mandis (markets) of Rajasthan, which is the top producer of mustard, the price was anywhere from Rs 3,873-5,600 per quintal. 

According to Agmarknet portal, maintained by the Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, only in 16 mandis out of the state’s 147, were prices either Rs 5,000 or above (only one mandi rate being Rs 5,600). 

This indicates that the farmers were forced to sell at a price which is 20-25 per cent less than MSP. 

The current situation with falling mustard prices also is a case in point for the farmers’ demand of a statutory guarantee to MSP, which essentially means that whoever willingly procures any crop from the mandi, will have to pay the minimum price set by the government before the crop season begins. Currently, there is no such legal binding.  

Farmers fear that the prices will slip further with the arrival of the new mustard crop by next month. As of February 2, 2024, 10.04 million hectares was sown with mustard, almost a 250,000 hectares increase over 2022-23, according to data by the agriculture ministry. 

On February 21, Ajay Jhunjhunwala, president, Solvent Extractors Association of India, urged the government to take steps to arrest the falling prices. 

“The current mustard price is ruling below MSP and the peak arrivals in the next two weeks, would push prices further down. I request the government to instruct their procurement agencies for action, that is, to start procurement at MSP from the mandis to support farmers,” he said.

The association has engaged RMSI Cropalytics, a data analytics firm, for All India Rape Mustard Crop Survey, he said. “Moisture levels are quite good and the mustard crop is shaping-up well. While RMSI would submit the final report and crop estimate by the middle of March, current indications are quite positive and we will not be too surprised to have a record harvest of mustard in the current rabi season,” said Jhunjhunwala. 

Mustard farmers have been seeing losses in the selling of the crop for the second consecutive year. The prices have been seeing a decline with the harvesting of early maturing varieties started in northern states

In her budget speech on February 1, 2024, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had said that the government would draw a strategy to achieve atmanirbharta (self-reliance) for oilseeds such as mustard, groundnut, sesame, soybean and sunflower.

The industry has appealed for adequate financial support to achieve the successful implementation of the ‘Atmanirbhar Oilseeds Abhiyan’. “Our goal is to reduce the current dependency on edible oil imports from 60 per cent to 30 per cent over the next 10 years,” said Jhunjhunwala. 

Meanwhile, farmer leaders said they will resume marching to the national capital Delhi this week. On February 19, they rejected the government’s proposal to purchase pulses, maize and cotton crops by different government agencies at MSP, arguing that it was “not in their favour”. 

In the fourth round of talks on February 18, 2024, a government panel comprising Union Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal, Agriculture and Farmer Welfare Minister Arjun Munda and Minister of State for Home Affairs Nityanand Rai proposed involving cooperative agencies like National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Ltd, National Cooperative Consumers’ Federation of India Ltd and Cotton Corporation of India will enter into five-year contracts with farmers, ensuring purchases of pulses, cotton and maize at MSP without quantity limitations.

However, farmers have demanded a legal guarantee for all 23 crops for which the MSP is determined each year, not just pulses, maize, and cotton. They termed the proposal a diversion of focus from a legal framework for MSP to a couple of crops and to the subject of crop diversification. 

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