Non-wheat, non-paddy farmers are not very impressed with the Bill passed on Tuesday by the Punjab Assembly to negate the Centre’s recently enacted Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act.
The Amarinder government’s Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) (Special Provisions and Punjab Amendment) Bill, 2020, does not allow sale of paddy or wheat to take place within Punjab at below their official MSP.
Such sales would invite fine and imprisonment of up to three years, the proposed law says.
“How does this new law make a difference, when the entire wheat and parmal (non-basmati) of our state is anyway being bought by the government at MSP? What will happen to my maize? Who will pay MSP for it,” asked Balkar Singh, who has grown the grain on 15 of his 24-acre holding at Bhanwal village of Pathankot tehsil and district.
Cotton, maize and basmati paddy have been planted on 5.01 lakh hectares (lh), 2.42 lh and 6.60 lh area in Punjab in the current kharif season. But there is no MSP protection – legal or otherwise – for farmers growing these crops even after the passage of the Punjab government’s “historic” Bills.
Maize is currently quoting at Rs 1,300-1,350 per quintal at Kartarpur grain market near Jalandhar city. “The MSP of maize, I am told, is Rs 1,850 per quintal this year. But I sold some quantity in Pathankot mandi at Rs 800 two weeks ago. Prices improved slightly to Rs 1,000 ten days ago and Rs 1,200 two days back, but MSP is a dream,” said the 47-year-old, who has harvested an average grain yield of 20 quintals per acre.
The exclusion of maize from “legalised MSP” in the Punjab government’s Bill has prompted Balkar Singh to declare that he will exit its cultivation. “If the government wants us to only grow paddy, why should I risk growing maize, despite it requiring much less water,” he said.
He isn’t alone in criticising the Bill. “The Centre’s law was anti-farmer. But this Bill of the Punjab government is only a halfhearted response and it is discriminatory,” said Kaur Singh Brar, who grows cotton on 3.5 acres and paddy on another 13.5 acres in Lakhi Jungle village of Bathinda district.
Brar sold his first picking of 12 quintals of narma/kapas (raw un-ginned cotton) at Bathinda mandi on October 4 for Rs 4,500 per quintal, as against the MSP of Rs 5,725 per quintal for long-staple varieties/hybrids. “What kind of Bill is this that punishes only paddy or wheat traders buying at below MSP? Why not impose similar terms on cotton ginners and traders?” he asked.
Brar’s views are seconded by Gurraj Singh of Katar Singhwala village in the same district. This nine-acre cotton grower realised a rate of just Rs 4,660 for 22 quintals of the 30 quintals harvested from his first picking. “I am waiting for the Cotton Corporation of India (CCI) to enter the market and start procurement. It should help me a better price for my remaining crop, including from the second and third pickings,” he said.
The contrast between the crops enjoying MSP support – now sought to be “legalised” through a state legislation – and those selling at virtually market-determined rates is also highlighted in the data on government procurement and mandi arrivals.
In 2019-20 kharif marketing season (October-December), the FCI and state government agencies together procured 163.44 lakh tonnes (lt) out of total 164.27 lt of non-basmati paddy that arrived in Punjab’s mandis. In case of wheat, government procurement accounted for 127.62 lt out of total arrivals of 131.70 lt during the recent rabi marketing season (April-June).
On the other hand, there was no procurement of the total basmati paddy crop of 25.54 lt and 6 lt of maize that arrived in the state’s mandis in the last kharif season. CCI bought around 35 per cent of 42.60 lakh quintals of kapas that came to markets in 2019-20, but there is no legal guarantee for these purchases in the Bill..
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines