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Why farmers in the arid zone are not bothered about MSP

Radheshyam Jadhav | | | Updated on: Nov 26, 2021
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Marathwada and Vidarbha regions continue to report maximum farmer suicides

Far away from the agitation by farmers on Delhi borders who are demanding a law for guaranteed Minimum Support Price (MSP), countless farmers in Marathwada and Vidarbha regions, which are infamous for farmer suicides, are battling the odds stacked against them even as MSP is not even on their agenda.

The regions continue to report maximum farmer suicides putting Maharashtra on the top of the list of States reporting the highest number of farmer suicides. The agitation against farm laws hardly got support in the region and now the agitation for MSP law has very few takers.

“Majority of the farmers are not even aware of the MSP and that’s why Maharashtra farmers stayed away from the Delhi agitation. We, soybean farmers, spend about ₹14,500 to ₹17,700 to cultivate soybean in one-acre land and what is the MSP government has offered?” asks Sominath Gholwe who cultivates soybean in his hometown, Beed.

The MSP for soybean this year is ₹3,950 per quintal. “It should be at least ₹6,000 per quintal to match the production cost. So MSP is not an issue here,” says Sominath.

Like farmers in Beed, majority of agricultural households in India are not aware of the MSP concept. The percentage of output sold by households under the MSP range between 0 to 24.7 per cent (except sugarcane) according to the National Sample Survey – NSS 77th round. Paddy and wheat growing households dominate the charts of MSP awareness and output sold under the MSP. Not surprisingly Punjab and Haryana farmers are keen on MSP law.

“MSP is for namesake. Very few farmers sell their produce to the government’s procurement agencies. And when rates are higher in the open market, we don’t go to the government agencies. But then the government comes in with every effort to bring down rates of the produce,” says Kakasaheb Thorat.

MSP not the answer

Based on the recommendations of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP), the Union government declares MSP after considering the views of State governments and Union ministries concerned for agricultural crops such as cereals, pulses, oilseeds, and commercial crops every year at the beginning of the sowing season.

CACP considers cost of production, domestic and international prices, demand-supply conditions, inter-crop price parity, terms of trade between agricultural and non-agricultural sectors to finalise the MSP.

“Farmers are like birds closed in a cage and the government is feeding them with titbits like MSP and subsidies. This entire model is flawed. Farmers must come out of the cage and face the market. This is the only option left. All these years we have seen that welfare schemes serve a temporary purpose,” says Amar Habib leader of Kisanputra Andolan in Beed.

Habib says that agrarian distress in the region is multiplying and after a series of droughts unseasonal rains have devastated farmers. “It is high time that political parties and leaders shun popular stands and bring reforms. Even as the Union Government has withdrawn farm laws, it must allow the States to make their own laws,” says Habib.

What’s the future?

The Union Government while introducing farm laws had clarified that MSP policy has nothing to do with the laws. However, the laws enabled farmers to sell their produce to the government procurement agencies at MSP or Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) markets or through contract farming or in the open market whichever was advantageous to them.

The farm laws aimed to facilitate direct buying from farmers in trade areas by traders, processors, exporters, Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs), agriculture cooperative societies etc. This would have provided farmers with better price realisation due to a reduction in supply chain and marketing costs to enhance their income.

Farmers in Adas town who are aware of the MSP say that they are not sure if MSP is going to help them to solve their problems. They say that the government procurement agencies come late in the market and by the time procurement starts, majority of the farmers sell out their produce to private players.

“If the government decides to make a law on MSP, will it ensure that produce by the majority of farmers is procured? Who is going to get the benefit of the MSP law?” they ask.

There are no easy answers to the questions raised by these farmers.

(This is the fourth of the five-part series on repeal of farm laws)

Published on November 26, 2021

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