Making Minimum Support Price (MSP) a legal right is not a demand that farmers alone have been raising. In fact, the Union government’s own statutory body had suggested the same two years back.
The Commission for Agriculture Cost and Prices (CACP), which was set up in January 1965 as Agriculture Price Commission (later changed its name to CACP in 1985 ), which is under the Ministry of Agriculture, has been fixing MSP of crops for the over five decades now. It currently fixes the MSP of 23 crops every year. In 2018, CACP had suggested the Centre should make MSP a legal right for the farmers.
“In its report titled ‘Price Policy for Kharif Crops’ for the marketing season 2018-19, the CACP had mentioned that procurement of the farmers crop system is shattered for most crops and most farmers are forced to sell their crops to local traders only who are purchasing the crops at quite below the suggested MSP by it (CACP),” said a retired Prof of Punjab Agriculture University (PAU), Ludhiana, adding that there is no use of fixing the MSP of crops if they are not implemented on the ground or they do not have any legal value.
“But later this policy was not discussed in detail and CACP is now saying that the open-ended procurement policy for wheat and rice should be reviewed as it will lead to food subsidy burden and affect diversification,” said he.
“What is the use of recommending maize MSP at Rs 1,850 per quintal if farmers are ending up selling it at the rate of Rs 800 to 1,100 per quintal only,” said Sidhu.
It has also said that both state governments and private players should be involved to get remunerative prices for the farmers’ crops.
“When farmers will not even get the MSP, which is calculated after taking every input cost into account, of his crop then how can he survives and who will do it except government which can make such provision where the fixed MSP of the crops by CACP could be implemented at the grassroot-level and government can make a law that purchase below the MSP rate would be illegal,” said Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan, General Secretary, Bharti Kisan Union (BKU) Ugrahan, the biggest farm union of Punjab, adding that government is running away from the suggestion of its own body which is working on MSP for decades.
“Rather through these Bills the government is clearing a road for it to run away from procuring even wheat and paddy on MSP,” he added.
“The very term MSP is offering just the minimum price to support farming and it is pathetic that farmers have no right even to get minimum price of their crop. And why can’t the government make it legal One can imagine how a farmer will survive if he does not get the MSP of his crop. How traders, corporates, and MNCs are thriving on farmers’ produce and farmers are still poor” said BKU (Dakuanda), General Secretary, Jagmohan Singh, adding that farmers are forced to sell maize at Rs 7 to 11 per kg in the market and the same maize flour is being sold at Rs 100 to 200 per kg in big malls.
“By making MSP legal this huge gap between farmers’ income and big traders’ income from the same crop will be minimised and farmers can at least earn some respectable amount for his tireless labour which he puts throughout the year in the fields,” said he.
“If government’s own body feels that procurement system of the crops has broken down in the country and farmers are suffering because of this then what else proof government needs to know about the plight of the farmers,” said another farm leader, adding that they are selling sunflower, moong at 30 to 40 per cent below the fixed MSP every year.
“Unless and until farmers will not get the MSP as per the recommendations of Dr MS Swaminathan Report and as a legal right, the farmers’ income will never improve and they will come under more and more debt,” said Baldev Singh Sirsa, another farm leader of Lok Bhali Insaaf Welfare Society.
“Government must assure MSP for crops to farmers so that they can meet their basic need for food, shelter, education health etc. which is not happening currently in case of small and marginal farmers and there are 86 per cent small and marginal farmers in the country,” said former Economics professor and farm expert, Dr Gian Singh.
Experts said that a legal MSP regime would ensure that private players offer respectable price to farmers. They added that in case of cotton, which is mostly purchased by the private players, when the prices fall below the fixed MSP then Cotton Corporation of India enters the market to purchase from farmers as per the MSP rate which also offer a level playing because if CCI will purchase at the rate of MSP then the private player will get it little costly from MSP from CCI when they need raw material to run their mills. This is the reason private players prefer to purchase directly from farmers by paying a rate close to MSP rather than buying costly from CCI later on.
“Like CCI, such system should be formed for every crop by the government which should enter only when the rate of crop falls drastically low in the market and it would also prevent the cartalization among the traders to offer less price to the farmers to mint huge money,’ said a senior officer at PAU.
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