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MSP for rabi crops likely before sowing

Our Bureau

Ms Radha Singh

Hyderabad , Oct. 4

THE Union Government will shortly announce the minimum support price (MSP) for various farm sector produce ahead of the 2004 rabi season, thereby deviating from the standard practice of announcing the MSP after the crop is sown.

The Union Agriculture Secretary, Ms Radha Singh, said the announcement of MSP ahead of the season would serve as guidance for various crops and this would help not only the farm sector but also various State Governments to plan better the overall farm sector strategy.

"We expect this to be cleared by the Cabinet within a fortnight and a letter issued to various States intimating about the development," she said.

Speaking at a meeting here ahead of the ensuing rabi crop season, Ms Singh said the Government was very keen to ensure that the overall foodgrain production crosses the last year mark.

While the overall output last year was about 212 million tonnes, the first part of the year from the kharif season had mixed performance with no clear pattern in rainfall.

However, the projections for the rabi crop look extremely good and from indications we could touch the 230-million-tonne-mark. This would be possible since the moisture from the monsoon would help the rabi crop too.

Ms Singh was addressing agriculture secretaries from four southern States at National Institute of Agricultural Extension Management (Manage), to chart out strategies for the rabi crop season and to firm up targets.

Earlier in the day, Ms Singh inaugurated a conference on mass media agri-extension in eight low power transmission areas at Manage.

In India where two-thirds of the populace is dependent on agriculture and one fourth of the country's GDP is contributed by agriculture, the coverage for the farm sector in print and electronic media is stated to be less than two per cent.

The move to announce MSP just ahead of sowing or at the time of sowing is expected to help farmers to a great extent.

Agricultural experts feel it will help the farmers to go in for a crop, which they feel could give them remunerative prices.

Also, this could help wean away growers from foodgrains to crops such as oilseeds. Oilseeds carry higher MSP but growing foodgrain is seen as a sure guarantee for payment since the Union and State Governments procure grains for mandatory stocks.

The Government, in particular, wants farmers to diversify, particularly to oilseeds since the country spends huge amount of foreign exchange in importing edible oils.

Over 50 lakh tonnes of edible oils were imported during 2002-03 (November-October). However, a record crop of 238.5 lakh tonnes last year has helped in cutting imports by 10 lakh tonnes this year.

Farmers, on the other hand, have been demanding announcement of MSP much ahead of the season to help them decide on which crop to sow.

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