Farmers shouldn't worry about the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for their crops as new farm laws will not affect procurement operations carried out by the government agencies. Farmers are 'Anndata' who produce grains to feed 130 crore people of the country, and betterment of 'Anndata' is the priority of Modi government. Therefore, they should not be misguided on the issue of MSP.
The country realises the importance of farmers in the extraordinary situation of Covid-19 pandemic as India is food surplus state today by the virtue of their efforts and the government could start the program of free distribution of food during this difficult time as there was sufficient foodgrains in the government's vaults.
Interest of farmers are paramount in all the decisions of Modi government because this government is of the firm view that if a farmer is prosperous than country will also be prosperous. After coming to power, Modi Government has implemented recommendations of Swaminathan Commission on MSP so as to ensure that farmers get more than 50 per cent benefit with MSP for the costs of their crops.
Due to the efforts of Modi government, record purchase of wheat on MSP was done even during the Covid period. Besides, government has purchased pulses and oilseed crops of the farmers on MSP with reasonable price. During this Kharif season, purchasing of grains have started before time whereas purchasing of some crops on MSP will begin from October 1.
With a view to provide better price for the crops, all efforts are being made by the government and with this purpose, reform programs in agriculture sector through new laws are being implemented. This government has a target to double the income of farmers by 2022 and the government will not take any step which will create hurdle in the prosperity of grain growers.
The Modi government has brought overall changes in agriculture sector during Corona time with the intention of economic freedom and prosperity of the farmers and has taken three important decisions. It also brought three ordinances which were presented as legislations in the Monsoon session of Parliament and with the signature of President Ramnath Kovind, these legislations have become law.
This will not only help in fulfilling the dream of Modi government to develop 'one country, one market' for the marketing of agricultural products but will also pave the way to recognise agriculture as an industry. Now farmers will be able to decide the prices of their crops. Under these circumstances, they need not to worry about MSP.
The MSP of wheat, Sorgham, green gram, niger and coconut has increased from Rs 525 to Rs 4,800 per quintal from 2014-15 to 2020-21. Similarly, MSP of other crops has also increased significantly during the tenure of Modi government.
The Central government has increased the number of purchase centers to make arrangements for the purchase of Rabi season crops during Corona time. As a result, record purchase of wheat could be made and huge increase in purchase of other crops was also observed. During last Kharif season, government agencies had purchased 389.85 lakh tonne wheat directly from the farmers which is now a record level for which farmers were paid Rs 75,000 crore. As against the purchase of paddy during 2014-15, there was an increase of about 80 per cent during 2019.
Central government has been continuously working in the interest of farmers. Including wheat, grain, pulses and oilseeds, an amount of Rs 2,19,234 crore as MSP was paid to farmers during 2020. This amount is 120 per cent more as compared to the amount paid during last year. As such, during last year, a total amount of Rs 99,653 crore was paid.
MSP of the crops is required to be paid to farmers in case the farmers are not getting fair price of their crops. But, when a farmer himself will decide the price of his products, then there is no need to worry about MSP. The people raising doubts on the intention of Modi government on MSP are just misguiding the farmers to safeguard their vested political interests. Therefore, the farmers need not get misguided. The Government of India led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has framed three ordinances related to agriculture only with one objective - that is to bring the happiness in the life of farmers.
When the Government of India has taken effective steps to handle the complicated situation of infection of coronavirus in the country, the harvesting season of Rabi crops was going on and it was the season of sowing summer crops.
Therefore, sowing, harvesting, transportation, marketing of crops have been kept free from complete lockdown by the government but due to the closure of commodity mandis operated by the Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC), farmers faced the problems. They were not able to sell their crops.
In these circumstance, through the ordinance, the government fulfilled the dream of farmers "one country one agricultural produce market" by giving farmers the freedom to sell crops anywhere and to anyone in the country.
When storage, transportation, processing along with value addition, series facilities of corps will be better, the farmers will get better prices of their crops.
Today, only 22 scheduled crops have been identified for MSP, while government desires that farmers of the country should get better prices of all agriculture and horticulture crops. Only for this purpose, decades old laws (Essential Commodities Act 1955) has been amended and such ordinances have been framed under which farmers can sell their produce anywhere in India without any hurdle. Also, farmers will be confident of getting the price even before farming. For this provision of contract farming has been made. Under this provision, the farmer will get assured price at the time of sowing crops and they will also get additional price, if any, at the time harvesting. It will be an agreement of the crops, but not of the agriculture land of the farmers.
Grains, pluses, oilseeds and edible oils including potatoes, onions, tomatoes have been removed from the list of essential commodities by the amending Essential Commodities Act 1955. Now private investors will come forward for storage, processing and value addition of these agriculture produces for which farmers will get better and beneficial prices of their produces.
Often it is observed that prices of horticultural produce in the market yards, of their area of cultivation are very low, while fruits and vegetables sell at high prices in the consumer markets. In fact, the chain from producer to consumer has many middlemen in between who earn heavy profits while farmers get lower prices for their produce. The government has brought these legal changes to remove middlemen from supply chain, as a result of which the farmers can now sell their produce directly to wholesale traders, retail traders and processors. This will ensure fair and remunerative prices to the farmers for their crops.
Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020 is a historical decision of Modi Government. As per this act, farmers have got freedom to sell their crops to anyone, anywhere in the country which was not the position earlier. Earlier, farmers had to remain dependent on aadhtiyas and traders in the markets, run under Agricultural Produce Market Act. Bids were called for their crops. Is there any system of bids for sale of any industrial product? Perhaps not. Because prices of industrial products are pre-determined and right to fix the prices lies in the hands of the industrialists. Companies fix prices of their products, then why should prices of farmers' produce be fixed by some middleman? Prime Minister Narendra Modi realised thie problem of the farmers. After coming to power, Modi has taken a series of farmer's friendly decisions, for their progress and prosperity. The laws introduced for reforms in Agriculture and Allied Sector are in the interest of farmers.
Those who are terming them as a step towards benefitting corporate and private capitalists want to politicise this issue, as they are left with no issue for taking political mileage. Those people, who are claiming that Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance Act, 2020 will be beneficial to the corporate sector, should know that Modi government has set a target of formation of 10,000 Farmers Producers Organisations (FPOs) in the country. In fact, this will enable farmers participation from stage of producing crops to marketing them, meaning thereby that the producers will be the sellers also. These decisions will undoubtedly attract private investments and direct foreign investments also and biggest beneficiaries of this decision will be farmers.
In the first term of Modi government itself, MSPs of several crops were increased while implementing recommendations of Swaminathan Committee. While fixing MSPs, Swaminathan formula is being followed. This government has implemented 200 out of 201 recommendations of Swaminathan Committee which were awaited for years. Those who are misleading farmers on the issue of MSP, their governments did not show any interest in implementing the recommendations of Swaminathan Committee. So there is no need to be mislead in the matter of MSPs. MSPs are there to last forever.
(The author is the Union Minister of State for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare. The views expressed are his personal).