The ruling LDF government in Kerala is set to announce a special scheme to procure produce directly from cash-strapped farmers in northern India at minimum support price (MSP) to ease their pain over low prices.
The decision, seen loaded with political symbolism ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, was publicly spelt out by Finance Minister TM Thomas Isaac on Twitter. He said the state’s Civil Supplies Corporation (SupplyCo) and Consumerfed, both government agencies involved in the procurement of essential items like rice and pulses, will acquire produce from farmers in northern Indian states at MSP, following which they will be stored at ‘production centres and moved to Kerala as per an agreed schedule.’
“Kerala Left govt in solidarity with the struggling farmers of north India reeling under price crash of products like onions,” Isaac tweeted Wednesday night.
Isaac’s announcement comes just a week after the Centre announced in its interim budget a scheme to provide Rs 6,000 annual income support to farmers credited directly in their bank accounts. Depressed farm prices have been a recurring theme during the present NDA government as a result of demonetisation and implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
A senior official at SupplyCo told the indianexpress.com that the modalities of the proposed scheme of the state government are still being worked out and will become clearer in the next 1-2 weeks.
Usually, the state procures essential pulses from other states and vegetables by calling out a tender, attended by all the major traders and suppliers. Kerala has had to depend entirely on the import of pulses from other states for its consumption needs.
“But at the same time, over the past one month, we have also bought some items through National Agricultural Cooperation Marketing Federation of India (NAFED) from other states. For example, we got brown chickpeas from Karnataka, green gram and black gram lentils from Rajasthan and yellow lentils from Madhya Pradesh,” the official said.
While the procurement for these items was done directly by NAFED, it was the first time the state bought them for its local distribution without involving middlemen.