Angry farmers Friday protested over government’s move to slash import duty on wheat to zero. The farmers said that this attempt of the central government would have a suicidal effect on the farming community, which is already in stress following failed crops in the past couple of years. The government says that the duty is scrapped to control the inflated rates of wheat in the domestic market. They also feel that it will lead to hoarding of wheat by big traders who get huge consignments of the imported wheat.
“It is bad news for the farmers as such imports always harm their interest. After getting cheap wheat from other country, the government does not give full MSP to the farmers due to one reason or the other,” said Punjab Mandi Board Chairman Ajmer Singh Lakhowal while speaking to The Indian Express, adding that we have sufficient stock of wheat and this decision will only help big corporate houses and MNCs.
“We have already been facing huge problems to get the required Cash Credit Limit (CCL) from the Centre to procure our crops,” said Lakhowal. He added that till date, farmers have not got the payments of the paddy they sold over a month back. “This move reflects that the Centre has already admitted the country will not have sufficient production of wheat in the current rabi season and is giving a free hand to the traders to import as much wheat as possible,” said farmer Sukhdev Singh.
Jagmohan Singh Dakaunda, general secretary of a faction of the Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) said that Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitely’s unfortunate decision will prove suicidal for farmers. “We are going to launch an agitation soon. If the government does not roll back its decision of zero per cent import duty, the farmers will be harassed by procurement agencies on the name of quality, moisture content etc,” Dakaunda said. Punjab is a major producer of wheat and this year, around 35 lakh hectares is under the crop which will be harvested in April next year. Meanwhile, according to agriculture experts, whether the government’s move will harm farmers or not depends on the period for which the import duty is being scrapped.