Farmers in India face no respite as prices continue to dip this winter season. The government has been widely impassive in correcting the situation and bringing the farmer out of distress. The prices of most of the key agricultural commodities have seen a decline due to the additional supplies from farms and the only way this can see a positive change is with government intervention.
The Centre has maintained that it is working closely with the States to ensure higher procurement and ease the situation but the results of these efforts seem to be lost. The worst affected this season are the ones who planted pluses, prices of which plunged by 20% below the support price. The two failed monsoons, hailstorms and irregular rainfall can be blamed for the widespread farmer agony. Although these environmental factors cannot be controlled, the Modi government could have been proactive in protecting the livelihoods of farmers by increasing the procurement and strengthening the Minimum Support Price (MSP) operations. Bimal Kothari, Vice-President of Indian Pulses and Grains Association (IPGA) also reiterates that the government must initiate a large-scale procurement operation to the tune of 1-1.5 million tonnes to support the prices of tur and chana. This is well substantiated as at the Latur APMC (Agricultural Produce Market Committee) in Maharashtra, the tur prices per quintal in Maharashtra are lower than the MSP of Rs. 5450 by 20%. In addition to this, in Indore, the chana prices in the market are marked 12% lower than the MSP that stands at Rs. 4400 a quintal and masoor 15% lower than MSP of Rs. 4250 a quintal. Prices of kharif maize in most of the markets remain 15-20% below MSP.
This is not a new phenomenon. Every winter season witnesses a price fall in agricultural commodities. If the government is aware of this and doing nothing to resolve the situation, it not only exposes the incompetence of the Modi government but also its complacency. Prices are expected to remain subdued for the next couple of months according to traders and exports across the country. The government is failing to come up with innovative solutions to solve this crisis. Many exporters and traders have suggested a barter-system with agriculturally deficit countries in order to boost Indian agricultural exports. The Crop Care Federation of India (CCFI) has submitted a pre-budget memorandum appealing to the government to seek immediate attention and arrest the fall in exports that poses an unfavourable condition for the Indian farmers. S Ganesan, advisor at CCFI has also suggested aggressive marketing for Indian agricultural products as a preferential strategy.
The Modi government is ever ready to spend the big bucks on renaming UPA policies and advertising the same but continues to side-step the real issue that affects the agricultural sector and the core-drivers of it, the farmers. It is high time the government took woke up and ensured that it is well prepared with necessary policies to ensure the same is not repeated in 2018 and farmers are given their due.