MSP for other crops

Context: Need to extend MSP for other crops to promote crop diversification.

How India achieved self-sufficiency in food grain production mainly in wheat and rice?

  • Ship-to-mouth situation in India: In the early 1960s, near-famine conditions prevailed in India and some 10 million tonnes of wheat had to be imported from the US under the PL480 programme.
  • Green Revolution: With the efforts of M S Swaminathan seeds of high-yielding dwarf wheat varieties were procured from Norman Borlaug wheat-improvement programme and were distributed to the Indian Agricultural Research Institutes. These high yielding seeds ushered the era of Green revolution in India.
  • Self-sufficiency: With favourable government policies, efforts of agricultural scientists and due to the immense contributions of farmers of Punjab, Haryana and western UP, India achieved self-sufficiency in food grain production mainly in wheat and rice.

Why the farmers from “food bowl “region are against the new farm bills?

  • First, the Farmers of the “food-bowl” states have been selling food grains (mainly wheat and rice) at Minimum Support Price (MSP) since the mid-1960s.
  • This has helped the central government create a central pool of food grains and the Public Distribution System (PDS) to help the poor.
  • However, MSP has not been guaranteed in the newly enacted farm laws, which is the major bone of contention.
  • Second, the Agriculture Produce Marketing Committees (APMCs) are under threat from the new farm laws. Many experts feel that MSP and APMC go hand-in-hand. This has created uncertainty in the minds of farmers about the continuation of MSP.
  • Third, though the new farm laws are meant to eliminate the “middlemen” (arhtiyas), farmers feel that a new class of middlemen, that is, lawyers belonging to big companies, will emerge leaving small farmers at a distinct disadvantage. (more than 80 per cent of farmers own less than five acres of land).
  • Fourth, according to the central government, the new laws will ensure contract farmingHowever, the farmers feel that the big companies might become monopolies, and exploit both farmers and consumers. Farmers fear being made into labourers.
  • Apart from these issues, the manner in which the bills are passed without consultation of stakeholders and lack of discussion in the parliament has provoked a reactionary response from farmers.

What is the way forward?

  • Guarantee MSP: A clause should be added in the law to the effect that no matter who buys the producing government or a private entity, the farmer must be given MSP.
  • Implementation of MS Swaminathan committee recommendation: The National Farmers’ Commission recommended providing an MSP of 50 percent over and above a farmer’s input expenses must be implemented.
  • Need for Special MSP: MSP should be determined on the basis of grain quality. For example, wheat varieties grown in the “food bowl” states contain 11 percent protein compared to 7 percent protein grown elsewhere.
  • Promote crop diversification: Government needs to purchase crops produced other than wheat and rice at MSP. This could help conserve underground water and soil fertility.
  • Encourage farmers to grow high-value crops: For this to happen the government should set up an adequate cold-chain infrastructure so that perishable products can be kept longer and sold at an appropriate time.
  • Discussions, Deliberation, Debate: Including intellectuals like M S Swaminathan, Gurdev S Khush, Surinder K Vasal, and Rattan Lal in the “Agricultural Think Tank” and  they should be consulted by Niti Aayog
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