Agricultural produce traders may have to pay higher farmers welfare cess in Rajasthan from April 1 as the State government is yet to take a decision whether to continue the concessional rates prevalent since March 2021 even as its validity expires on Sunday. Until the government decides to extend it, the rates at which the cess was collected before 2021 will be applicable, potentially doubling the cess on many agricultural and horticulture commodities from the current levels.

According to a communication received by mandis (market yards) from the State government on March 27, mandis will have to levy the Farmer Welfare Cess at the rates prevailed before March 1, 2021, as there a decision is yet to be taken whether to extend the concessional rates, a mandi official said. Rajasthan had introduced farmer welfare cess in May 2020 after the Covid pandemic. However, rates were reduced in 2021.

Poll panel has to clear

“We do not know what the new government will decide hence wanted a clarification as there are three days of continuous holidays. Even if the government decides, it will be late as it may have to take clearance from the Election Commission,” said the mandi official.

Per the May 22, 2020 notification of the State government, the rate of Farmer Welfare Cess was zero on wool, 0.50 per cent on jowar, millet, maize and Isabgol, 2 per cent on fruits and vegetables and 1 per cent on the remaining agricultural commodities.

But during last three years from 2021-22 to 2023-24, the State government issued notifications from time to time, reducing the rate of farmer welfare cess to 1 per cent on fruits and vegetables, and to 0.5 per cent on other agricultural commodities.

The State generates about  ₹600 crore from mandi fess and about ₹300-350 crore from farmer welfare cess every year.

Diversion for other schemes

“Whenever there is resource constraint, governments have been diverting the money generated through either mandi fee or farmer welfare cess to other programmes as they have assumed that it is a revenue for the State,” said Rampal Jat, president of Jaipur-based Kisan Mahapanchayat.

He said the Rajasthan government in the past had used the collection from mandi fees towards clearing its share in the subsidy under the Prime Minister Fasal Bima Yojana.

Jat demanded a stop to this practice and the money generated from fess and cess from a particular mandi has to be spent within the complex to create infrastructure like cleaning machines and proper storage facility for the unsold crop of a farmer.