As the rabi harvests have started arriving in the mandis, farmer leaders have said that there was a loss of Rs 140 crore for chana growers in the first fortnight of this month due to the failure of the government to ensure the purchases of the key pulse crop at its minimum support price (MSP) of Rs 5,100 per quintal. The farmers would have earned nearly Rs 500 crore more in this period had the government accepted the Swaminathan commission formula of fixing the MSP at 150% of the cost of production (C2), the leaders said.
“The all-India average price of chana was Rs 4,663/quintal or 8.6% below MSP during March 1-15 while in five major states with substantial arrivals the prices were in the range of Rs 4,462-4,775/quintal,” said Yogendra Yadav of Jai Kisan Andolan, which launched a movement in 2018 demanding better prices for farmers. Later on, many more farmer organizations joined and started demanding a legal guarantee of MSP. Even the Samkyukt Kisan Morcha, spearheading the current farmers’ protest against the three contentious farm laws, has been demanding a legally guaranteed MSP mechanism besides repeal of the laws.
Speaking at the Indian Express Group’s Idea Exchange programme Agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar in September last year had said that the laws had little to do with the MSP system or government procurement of agriculture commodities. He said that MSPs were administrative measures and these had never been part of any law. If anything, procurement only increased under the current dispensation, he pointed out, adding that the NDA government made MSPs more meaningful with the rule that these prices must be at least 50% above cost (A2+FL).
Yadav said if the government does not intervene and prices remain at the current level, chana farmers across the country may lose as much as Rs 870 crore this season based on the projected output of the crop. The growers of chana lost Rs 884 crore and `957 crore in 2020-21 and 2019-20, respectively by selling below MSP.
“The government on the other hand has been taking credit for fixing the MSP at a higher level without ensuring its sales at the corresponding benchmark rates as it is more concerned about retail inflation. That is the main reason for the increased import of pulses in the last two years despite higher output,” said an expert pointing to the depressed mandi prices.
Meanwhile, minister of state for food Danve Raosaheb Dadarao on March 16 said in Lok Sabha that the notification for the an annual import quota of 4 lakh tonne of urad has been issued for FY22. He also stated the production and import details of key pulses in current and previous two years saying the government proposes to import pulses to improve availability and check prices.
According to the official data, even though the production of five major pulses – tur, urad, masoor, moong and gram – increased by 9.5% in 2020-21 from what it was in 2018-19, there has been a spurt in import as much as 43% during this period. The chana production, in particular, rose by 17% and import by 56.5% in 2020-21 from 2018-19 levels. The country is estimated to produce 244.2 lakh tonne of pulses in 2020-21, up by 6% from the previous year.
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