September 7, 2017 1:25:38 am
Three months after farmer unrest over falling crop prices exploded on Madhya Pradesh (MP), deficient rainfall and depleting water levels, both in reservoirs as well as underground, has emerged as a fresh cause of worry. The current southwest monsoon season from June 1 to September 6 has seen the state receive 24.7 per cent below-normal (long period average) rainfall. As many as 31 out of 51 districts have recorded deficient rainfall — shortfall in excess of 20 per cent — while being 10-20 per cent below-normal in 11 others. Significantly, the rainfall deficiency has been less in the Neemuch-Mandsaur-Ratlam belt that bore the brunt of the farmers’ agitation in June.
The lack of rains is expected to impact the standing kharif crop and, moreover, could leave its imprint in the coming rabi planting season as well.
“The kharif crop is under stress, especially in the (eastern) Shahdol and (northern) Chambal and Gwalior divisions. Rabi is going to be equally critical. We will have to reevaluate our planting programme (in the light of the soil moisture stress) and promote rabi pulses like masoor (lentil) and chana (chickpea). Even in wheat, we will have to go for varieties that consume less water,” admits Rajesh Rajora, principal secretary (agriculture) in the MP government.
However, V S Bhatia, head of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research’s Directorate of Soybean Research at Indore, feels that the overall condition of the soyabean crop is not bad. While MP experienced an extended dry spell during August — area sown under soyabean in the state, at 50 lakh hectares (lh), is below last year’s 53.61 lh and the normal coverage of 58.99 lh — it has rained intermittently in main western Malwa and Nimar districts over the last few days. That, he adds, should help the crop and production may not fall more than 10 per cent. In any case, soyabean does not require much water.
An official from the Bhopal-based Directorate of Pulses Development, too, confirmed that field visits in Narsinghpur, Harda, Betul and Jabalpur districts revealed no major damage to either the soybean or kharif pulses crops such as urad (black gram), tur (pigeon pea) and moong (green gram).
“The crop really affected this time is paddy because it needs lot of water. We are struggling to keep the crop alive and I don’t know what the yields would be,” says Roopsingh Rajput, a farmer from Rohna village in Hoshangabad district. Even greater a worry is the prospects for wheat, which is to be sown after mid-October. The state’s ‘Krishi (agriculture) Cabinet’, which met on Monday, expressed concern over poor rains. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who chaired the meeting, asked officials to prepare short-term emergency plans to deal with a potential crisis.
Meanwhile, MP plans to roll out the Mukhyamantri Bhavantar Bhugtan Yojana, a deficiency price payment scheme
for farmers, in the coming kharif marketing season. Under the scheme, the state government will compensate farmers if their crops fetch market prices below the official minimum support prices (MSP), with the difference being directly credited into their bank accounts.
The scheme requires farmers to register themselves with their village-level primary agricultural cooperative societies between September 11 and October 11. They would have to also provide their Aadhaar unique identification number, mobile phone number and bank account details, along with the area sown to different crops. To start with, the scheme will cover eight kharif season crops: soyabean, maize, urad, tur, moong, groundnut, til (sesame) and ramtil (nigerseed). More crops could be added, depending on how the scheme plays out.
For the crops to be covered, the state government will fix a ‘modal price’ based on the three-month average rates traded in three mandis — one in MP and two in other states growing the particular crop. Thus, if the modal price for soyabean as per this formula comes to Rs 2,500 per quintal, compared to the MSP of Rs 3,050, and the farmer sells his crop at Rs 2,700 per quintal, a price difference of Rs 350 would be deposited in his bank account. In the event of his selling at
Rs 2,400 or even less per quintal, the difference transferred would be Rs 550 per quintal, which is the maximum deficiency rate allowed.
The average yield, on which the price difference would be applicable, will be worked out based on crop-cutting experiments undertaken for the particular district in the previous year. These yields will be notified before October 16.
For soyabean, the MP government has taken the purchase period for arriving at the modal price from October 16 to December 15. The deficiency payments for soyabean will be made to farmers’ accounts after December 15. The selling window for other crops has, likewise, been fixed based on their peak market arrival period. In tur, for example, this has been taken from February 1 to April 30.
Unlike for wheat, the state government would not undertake physical procurement in any of the crops covered under the new scheme. It will thereby save on storage and transport costs — apart from those incurred on account of spoilage and pilferage – and yet provide a safety net to farmers against falling prices, claim officials.
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