Amid renewed farmers’ protests, the Centre today raised the Minimum Support Price (MSP) of rabi crops for the forthcoming marketing season that will start from March 2022 with the highest increase reserved for pulses and oilseeds and lowest for wheat, which incidentally is the biggest food grain grown in the season.
These hikes are in line with the long-standing government policy of encouraging cultivation of oilseeds and pulses to meet rising demand and discourage farmers from growing wheat and paddy which are already in abundance.
Wheat MSP for 2022-23 marketing season has been raised by 2.03 per cent, among the lowest in the last several years, as compared to 2021-22 from Rs 1,975 per quintal to Rs 2,015 per quintal. MSP of masur (lentil) and mustard has been raised by 7.84 per cent and 8.60 per cent as compared to 2021-22.
Among other main rabi crops, the MSP of gram has been increased by 2.55 per cent from Rs 5,100 per quintal in 2021-22 to Rs 5,230 per quintal in 2022-23. (see chart)
However, the increases failed to assuage the protesting farmers, several of whom are from the main wheat, mustard and gram growing regions of Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh.
The farmers alleged that in real terms, the MSP increase is infact negative as inflation has been over 6 per cent in the last few months.
“The MSP increased for 2022-23 announced by the Government is a ‘farce’ as the official statement itself shows that the cost of production for wheat between 2021-22 and 2022-23 marketing seasons has increased at a higher rate than the MSP increase in absolute terms,” Rakesh Tikait, leader of Bhartiya Kisan Union and also the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) which has been spearheading the farmers’ agitation said.
He said even if we take the nominal increase in MSP of some crops, it does not have any impact on farmers as their procurement is less than a fraction of the total production.
“The Central government should disclose what is the cost of cultivation of wheat as estimated by Pant Nagar Agriculture University, Ludhiana Agriculture University and other research institutions,” Tikait added.
Sudhir Panwar, a former member of UP Planning Commission said that the government’s objective of encouraging farmers to diversify from cereals to oilseeds and pulses through higher MSPs is not clear in today’s decision as returns on wheat and mustard over their production cost is same at 100 percent while in pulses which needs encouragement it is lesser than wheat and in safflower the return is 50 per cent of the production cost.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi while welcoming the cabinet decision on Rabi MSP said that the move will ensure maximum remunerative price for farmers and also encourage them to sow a wide variety of crops.
Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar on the other hand said that the announcements show that MSP was there and will always remain and those who are spreading lies about its abolition should learn from today’s decision.
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