While indicating that the Swaminathan Commission’s recommendations on Minimum Support Price (MSP) was not pragmatic, the state government is working on a comprehensive policy to ensure farmers fetch higher remunerations not only on select foodgrain and pulses but on all farm produce.
High on the government agenda is sector-wise investments topped by doubling production and channeling it through food processing units across Vidarbha, Marathwada, north Maharashtra, western Maharashtra and Konkan. The Centre’s nod to 100 per cent foreign direct investment (FDI) in food processing will work to the state’s advantage, it is felt. Today, total investments in the food processing sector does not exceed 2 per cent.
Moreover, almost 15 per cent of foodgrain and 30 per cent fruits and vegetables get wasted, which if tapped by the food processing sector can fetch higher dividends to the state’s 1.34-crore farmers, sources said.
According to the Swaminathan Commission report, “The Minimum Support Price to farmers should be 50 per cent more than the weighted average of the cost of production.” Now, this formula, recommended over a decade ago, was uniform for all states. But the state government believes that if they were to enforce the commission’s MSP formula, the state will stand to lose compared to its neighbour Gujarat. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has often maintained the MSP recommended by the Swaminathan Commission will not be economically feasible unless farmers’ production per hectare is increased.
The government believes for an average investment of Rs 35,000 per hectare in the state, returns are not more than Rs 44,000. But in Gujarat, an average investment of Rs 42,000 per hectare fetches a return of Rs 88,000. Therefore, the state government believes the focus of its agriculture policy should be on doubling production per hectare in the next two-three years.
There are two aspects to the government’s approach. First, it intends to bring a legislation in the monsoon session beginning July 24 to ensure any trader exploiting farmers by underpaying the MSP will face criminal charges. This will be confined to the essential foodgrain and crops, including wheat, paddy, cotton, pulses, maize and oilseeds.
Current MSPs per quintal are as follows: paddy (Rs 1,470), jowar (Rs 1,625), wheat (Rs 1,625), maize (Rs 1,365), bajra (Rs 1,330), gram (Rs 4,000), tur (Rs 5,050), moong (Rs 5,225), sunflower (Rs 3,950), soybean (Rs 2,775), groundnut (Rs 4,220), cotton (Rs 4,160), masoor (Rs 3,900), ragi (Rs 1,725), sesame (Rs 5,000); nigerseed (Rs 3,825) and mustard (Rs 3,700).
The list does not include several other crops, perishable vegetables and fruits, the MSPs for which are determined by the agriculture market produce committees, guided broadly by demand and supply forces. In its new policies, the larger concern the state government is working on is to facilitate a base minimum support price for every farm produce which won’t be vulnerable to the demand and supply mechanism alone.
Fishing in ponds
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis Thursday said fishing in sweet water in ponds should be promoted across the state. While indicating fishing has a huge potential under agriculture and allied activities, he said, “Fishing in sweet water in ponds have long been neglected. It can generate huge employment for villagers and assured income. The government will provide the budgetary support for sweet water pond fishing.”