AMID allegations that a large chunk of the tur dal (pigeon pea) procured by the state has been purchased from traders who had bought the stock from farmers at well below the minimum support price (MSP), the Maharashtra government will now resume the procurement process. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis is learnt to have sanctioned another market intervention scheme to purchase the remaining tur dal stock from farmers — about 10 lakh quintal — at an MSP of Rs 5,050 per quintal.
Farmer groups have been alleging that a cartel of traders who purchased tur from them at Rs 3,000 to Rs 3,500 a quintal later reaped large gains by selling the stock to government-run procurement centres at the MSP. Only farmers are supposed to sell stock at the procurement centres.
Following a bumper tur crop and falling prices, the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation (NAFED), a state-run cooperative, has already extended the procurement date thrice in the state.
The latest extension comes at a time when the government is experiencing difficulties in disposing the procured stock. The government has now estimated that it may have to procure an additional 10 lakh quintal, at a cost of Rs 505 crore. It would then dispose this of by selling at market rates, a likely overall loss of Rs 150 crore to Rs 200 crore to the state treasury.
While the government now plans to conduct a door-to-door procurement exercise, senior government sources admitted that traders still hoarding the stock might look to capitalise on the fresh opportunity. Sources said political compulsions had forced the government’s move. The Fadnavis government is facing heat over the implementation of the farm loan waiver scheme. Vidarbha and Marathwada, the two regions where the agrarian distress is most acute, account for close to 80 per cent of the state’s tur production. Vidarbha has elected the most number of BJP MLAs.
Meanwhile, to speed up disposal of the procured tur, the government has plans to use it for supplies of pulses to all government-run or government-affiliated canteens and institutions. The state has also approached the Centre with a request for the channelisation of imports through government agencies such as the State Trading Corporation Limited and the Metal and Minerals Trading Corporation of India.
The CM has also decided to push for an upgrade of farm infrastructure. The Cabinet is expected to adopt an incentive scheme to encourage group farming, which is aimed at decreasing input costs, increasing per hectare crop yield, and enhancing returns. According to information, an integrated incentive scheme of up to Rs 50 lakh will be offered to farmers who pool together 100 acres of farmland.