Higher remunerative MSP must benefit small farmers, but how!
Rich farmers always stand to gain from every increase in MSP as the final figure translates into a respectable figure as they produce more
The real challenge is to financially uplift small farmers, most of whom sell their crop to local traders at a much lower rate than the MSP to meet their other but urgent needs. And this can be achieved only when small farmers are treated as a separate lot, and not bracketed with the country's rich farmers!
It is heartening indeed that the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) recently approved increased minimum support prices (MSP) for Kharif crops for all mandated Kharif crops for the Marketing Season-2022-23 to 'ensure remunerative prices to the growers for their produce and encourage crop diversification.' In a statement, the Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare said the increase in MSP is in line with the Union Budget 2018-19 announcement of fixing the MSP at a level of at least 50 per cent over the all India weighted average cost of production, aiming at reasonably fair remuneration for the farmers. It is notable that, return over MSP for bajra, tur, urad, sunflower seed, soybean and groundnut is more than 50 per cent over the all India weighted average cost of production at 85 per cent, 60 per cent, 59 per cent, 56 per cent, 53 per cent and 51 per cent respectively.
The ministry also said that concerted efforts have been made over the last few years to realign the MSP in favour of oilseeds, pulses and coarse cereals to encourage farmers to shift larger areas under these crops and adopt best technologies and farm practices to correct demand – supply imbalance. It further said that as per the 3rd Advance Estimates for 2021-22, the production of foodgrains in the country is estimated at record 314.51 million tonne, which is higher by 3.77 million tonne than the production of food grain during 2020-21. The production during 2021-22 is higher by 23.80 million tonnes than the average production of foodgrains during 2016-17 to 2020-21.
As per the second Advance Estimates for 2021-22, total foodgrains production in the country was put to record 316.06 million tonnes, higher by 5.32 million tonnes than the production of food grains during 2020-21. Total production of rice during 2021-22 was estimated at record 127.93 million tonnes, higher by 11.49 million tonnes than the last five years' average production of 116.44 million tonnes. The production of wheat was estimated at a record 111.32 million tonnes, higher by 7.44 million tonnes than the average wheat production of 103.88 million tonnes.
Similarly, the production of coarse cereals is estimated at 49.86 million tonnes, which is higher by 3.28 million tonnes than the average production. Total pulses production during 2021-22 was estimated at 26.96 million tonnes, 3.14 million tonnes higher than the last five years' average production of 23.82 million tonnes. Similarly, total oilseeds production in the country during 2021-22 was pegged at record 37.15 million tonnes, which was higher by 1.20 million tonnes than the production of 35.95 million tonnes during 2020-21. The production of cotton was put at 34.06 million bales - each of 170 kg – which was higher by 1.12 million bales than the average cotton production of 32.95 million bales.
The national targets for total food grain production are set at 3280 lakh tonne for the year 2022-23 as compared to expected production of 3160 lakh tonnes during the current year. Targets for production of pulses and pulses have been fixed at 295.5 and 413.4 lakh tonnes in 2022-23 respectively. The nutri-cereals production is to be increased from 115.3 in 2021-22 to 205 lakh tonnes in 2022-23. The strategy is to increase area through inter-cropping and crop diversification and productivity enhancement through introduction of high yield varieties (HYVs) and the adoption of suitable agronomic practices in low yielding regions.
There is nothing to doubt the bumper food grain production India is poised to clock during the current season. How to ensure that small holders get maximum and enhanced benefits of better MSP remains a challenge, which all stakeholders must address in a wholesome manner. Rich farmers always stand to gain from every increase in MSP as the final figure translates into a respectable figure as they produce more. What about small and marginal farmers? Even contract farmers in Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh stand to gain from increased MSP for paddy crop. The real challenge is to financially uplift small farmers, most of whom have to sell their crop to local traders at a much lower rate than the MSP to meet their other but urgent needs.
Better remunerative prices for small holders will be a big boost to their holistic development. The present government at the Centre has determination and intent to help small farmers so that they are able to provide better education and life to their children. As on 22nd February, 2022, benefits under the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Yojana (PM-KISAN) were provided to about 11.78 crore farmers and funds amounting to Rs 1.82 lakh crore in various instalments have been released to the eligible beneficiaries of the scheme across India. Out of which Rs 1.29 lakh crore has been released during the current Covid-19 pandemic period. Luckily the Centre has the data of marginalized and small farmers. The scheme was initially meant for small and marginal farmers (SMFs) having landholding up to two hectares but scope of the scheme was extended to cover all landholding farmers with effect from June 1, 2019.
One does not require too much of scholarship to assess the kind of spare grains a farmer with two hectares of land will have to sell by visiting the market where he is paid instantly by buyers in accordance with the MSP. Majority of small holders sell their extra produce only when there is a need or during festival time if they have saleable grains after meeting their own annual needs. Therefore, the challenge and opportunity is to empower small holders on a priority. There can be a separate and higher remunerative MSP for them. It has to be ensured that the benefits they get from the governments are in accordance with their health and education needs along with other requirements so that there is a critical improvement in their ease of life. The collective intent is to empower small holders in a wholesome manner. It will be possible only when they are treated as a separate lot, and should not be bracketed with the country's rich farmers!
(The writer is a senior journalist, author and columnist. The views expressed are strictly his personal)