The state government is working out ways to handle the crisis farmers find themselves in because of the falling prices of tur (pigeon pea).
After the Central government refused to extend the deadline for procurement of the crop at the minimum support price to prevent loss to the farmers, the state government has decided to encourage farmers to opt for the agricultural produce mortgage scheme to avoid a distress sale to traders. The government has procured only around 3.99 lakh tonnes of the total production of 20.35 lakh tonnes in the state, which has left a large number of tur-producing farmers unhappy.
Following a good monsoon, the production of tur was at least double the average production of the crop in the state.
It, however, led to a drastic fall in its market rate. After it fell to Rs3,600 from Rs4,500 a quintal, the government began procuring at Rs5,050 a quintal through centres across the state. After several extensions to the procurement centres, the Centre has now refused to extend the deadline.
This has posed a serious challenge before the government because more than 70% of the tur is yet to be procured and a stock of about 10 lakh quintal has been dumped at Agricultural Produce Marketing Committees across the state.
Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, on Monday, met Union food and public distribution minister Ramvilas Paswan in New Delhi with a request of extending the deadline of the procurement and the rise in the import duty to 25% as a measure to prevent its import in the domestic market. Paswan expressed the Centre’s inability to extend the deadline.
“We have the agricultural produce mortgage scheme under which the farmers can mortgage their produce and take a loan up to 75% of the market price it. In the case of tur, farmers can get Rs3,000 a quintal against their unsold tur and pay the interest at 6% a annum. We expect the rates of tur to cross Rs6,000 a quintal in the next couple of months once the procurement by the government is stopped. In that case, the farmers would be in position to sell their stock at higher rates. They will have to bear the burden of the interest, which would be around Rs2,000 for about 100 quintal for two months,” said an official from the marketing department.
The government claimed traders in the sector have been playing spoilsport and using their might to restrict market prices from going up. The government had also received the complaints of traders buying tur at a cheaper rate from the farmers and selling it at the MSP.
Experts have expressed their reservations on the mortgage scheme saying there are hardly any chances of prices going up. “If the government is so confident about the higher prices after a few months, it should protest the loss from the interest on the loan or the fall in the price, if any. The farmers could not recover the price of their soyabean against which such a loan was taken last season,” said Vijay Jawandhia, farm activist. He said the rise in the import duty to about 50% will be able to give some respite to the farmers.
Opposition Congress and Nationalist Congress Party flayed the state government for betrayal of the farmers and threatened agitations if the government does not restart procurement centres immediately. “When the rates of the pulses were high, the government encourage the farmers to grow pulses and now is has failed to procure them at the minimum support price. This is nothing but the breach of trust and the government should be held accountable for it,” said state Congress chief Ashok Chavan.