Demand minimum support price of above Rs 2,000 per 100 kg; say present MSP does not meet even cost of cultivation
Maharashtra government has recently announced the minimum support price for wheat at Rs 1,400 per quintal (100 kg). The decision has not gone down well with either the farmers or the agriculture department. Farmers in the state have questioned the rationale behind this low MSP, saying that such it will make wheat cultivation a loss-making prospect.
Manoj Jaunjal, organic farmer from Katol in Nagpur district, said the MSP for wheat has been close to static for the past 10 years, rising by a nominal Rs 50 or so once in a while. “In the past ten years the input and labour costs have gone up three times, but the MSP of wheat has risen from Rs 1,000 to Rs 1,400 – less than one-and-a-half times.” This year, said he, the yield is even lower owing to the widespread damage caused by hailstorms. “At such a juncture, the low MSP will hit farmers hard.”
He said that normally, the average yield of wheat in Maharashtra is 6-7 quintals an acre (about 20-25 quintals per ha), and an MSP of Rs 1,400 is insufficient to meet even the cost of cultivation, which comes to around Rs 10,000 per acre (0.4 ha). This year the situation is even worse, because the yields have fallen due to the widespread hailstorms.
Jaunjal said that this fact had been brought to the notice of the government at the meeting of the Maharashtra State Agriculture Marketing Board (MSAMB) in January, and the Board had recommended that MSP be fixed at Rs 2,000 to Rs 2,200. “Government is not even listening to experts, leave alone farmers,” said he.
Joint director for agriculture, Nagpur division, Vijay Gawate, confirmed that a recommendation of MSP above Rs 2,000 was given. “The decision appears to have been taken on the basis of national average in yields instead of state-specific yields,” said he. “Wheat yield in Maharashtra is much lower than in states like Haryana and Punjab, where the yields go above 50 quintals per ha,” said he. “So per quintal cost of cultivation is much higher here.” He agreed that the MSP is insufficient. The situation in the open market is also grim, because the best quality wheat is also not fetching higher than Rs 2,000. “A lot of farmers in Maharashtra are not making the grade this year due to damage to crops because of hailstorms,” said he.
Chief statistician at the State Agriculture Commissioner’s office, Anil Bansode, who is also a member of the MSAMB, said that the decision is not taken at the state level but by the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) at the Centre. MSAMB joint director Kranti Redkar, however, refused to comment on the subject.
Vijay Jawandhia, former Maharashtra state Shektari Sanghatana president and farmer leader from Wardha, said government officials are shrugging off responsibility by blaming the decision on CACP, while taking no steps on their own. “Even if the prices are fixed centrally, state governments always have an option to add a bonus in view of the ground realities in the state,” said he, “For example, Madhya Pradesh government is paying a Rs 100 bonus on the MSP despite the fact that productivity is the state is at 35-40 quintals per ha. Maharashtra government has not bothered to check the ground situation, and is blindly following the CACP dictat.” He said that the current price has been decided with a 15 per cent profit margin, which, in Maharashtra, works out to a loss. “Even if government had followed the 50 per cent profit margin recommendation of the Swaminathan committee, the price would have gone above Rs 2,000, which would have meant some relief for farmers.”
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