The state’s decision to bring a legislation to make the Minimum Support Price (MSP) mandatory and its violation a criminal offence is primarily aimed at tackling manipulations in the agriculture markets across Maharashtra, government sources said. “Whether it is the Agriculture Produce Market Committee or private traders, manipulations in the market that operate as a cartel becomes detrimental to the farmers interest,” said a source.
The price fluctuations in farm produce is often an outcome of market manipulations that works against the farmers, especially those with small and marginal land holdings in state. A senior officer in the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperative and Market Department said: “The M S Swaminathan Commission recommendation to give MSP that is 50 per cent more than the weighted average cost of production appears great on paper. When it comes to implementation, it is not practical. It cannot be uniformly applied across the state with varying degree of irrigation potential and farm production.”
However, he indicated that a Centre-state government based on the ground reality can determine the MSP to provide checks and balances to ensure higher remuneration to farmers and avoid market manipulations. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had said: “The government was committed to bring a legislation to make non-enforcement of MSP a criminal offence.” The act will be introduced in the monsoon session in July 2017, he revealed.
Former minister for marketing and cooperation, Harshvardhan Patil, said: “Unless I see the details, I cannot comment on the legislation. But the MSP mechanism can be strengthened through better co-ordination among the ministry of agriculture, ministry of co-operation and markets to keep a higher price base.” While conceding that governments cannot be expected to make the entire procurement to retain the base MSP index, he said: “The skill lies in creating a market where the farmers fetch price above the MSP for their crops. This would automatically lead to minimum procurement and less financial burden on the governments. It also fetches higher income to the farmers.”
The state farmers’ commission chief, Kishore Tiwari, said: “M S Swaminathan Commission’s recommendation of MSP is always an issue that makes good politics but poor economics.” Citing an example of cotton procurement based on the formula, he said: “If the government were to enforce the formula of 50 per cent higher rates on the weighted average production cost, it would have to shell out at least Rs 4 lakh crore on cotton for the entire country.”