The Minimum Selling Price (MSP) list for the kharif season crops, which was finalised by the cabinet committee on economic affairs (CCEA) on Thursday, came as dejection for the Punjab government after the CCEA failed to fix MSP for the maize crop.
Promoting maize as the future crop of the state, agriculture authorities had left no stone unturned exhorting farmers to grow maize under diversification project.
Besides providing 70% subsidy on hybrid seeds of maize P7396 and PX369, the state government had also launched a pilot project to promote the crop in 56 blocks of 10 districts, including Barnala, Sangrur, Patiala, Fatehgarh, SAS Nagar, Jalandhar, Kapurthala, Moga and Ludhiana.
Showing concerns over depleting water table due to cultivation of paddy, Punjab State Farmers' Commission (PSFC) chairman GS Kalkat had, in a recent draft of agriculture policy, urged the government to promote crop diversification and to exhort farmers to grow maize, vegetables, cereals and pulses, offering them with better marketing skills and good MSP.
Aiming at reducing area under water guzzling paddy, the agriculture department had increased area under maize crop, which usually consumes very less water. This year, maize was cultivated in 1.70 lakh hectare against 1.29 lakh hectare last year.
Mangal Singh Sandhu, director of the agriculture department, said despite being aware of the fact that the state government had been promoting the crop, the CCEA did not take decision on maize MSP.
“We were hoping that the MSP for maize crop would be mentioned in the CCEA list, but the decision came as shock to us. Exempting its MSP has lowered the morale of agriculture experts as well as the farmers,” he said.
“The state government had already submitted a proposal demanding good MSPs for kharif crops under diversification project and to reduce area under paddy. We will also urge chief minister Parkash Singh Badal to insist the central government to declare better MSP at the end of this season,” Sandhu said.
He said the agriculture department had somehow managed to get maize crop out of its traditional areas in Doaba districts to other parts of the state and ensured farmers of procurement of the crop at state level. “For this to continue, good price of the yield will help promote the crop,” he said.
Sukhdev Singh Kokri, general secretary of Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ekta-Ugrahan), said the government should be aware of a crop's MSP before promoting it.
“The government has nothing to lose. It is farmers who will feel the pinch if they don't get adequate prices at the end of the season. Earlier, the farmers got only Rs 1400-1450 per quintal, which was almost equal to that of a grade paddy,” he said.
He said MSP for other kharif crops were also nominal, far below the farmers' expectations.
'Paddy's MSP a mere joke'
Members of the Bhartiya Kisan Union (Dakaunda) termed MSP of paddy as “mere joke” with farmers
Mocking at the nominal hike in the MSP of other kharif crops, the members said the central government had ignored the interest and expectations of the Punjab farmers.
Jagmohan Singh, general secretary of the union, said they would launch a protest against the decision of the union government.
“The government should have declared MSP as mentioned in the MS Swaminathan report,” he said.
The cabinet committee on economic affairs (CCEA) has given nod to Rs 60 hike of common paddy. Its MSP is now Rs 1,310 per quintal as compared to earlier Rs1,250. The MSP of grade 'A' variety of paddy has also been increased by Rs 65, placing it at Rs 1,345 per quintal against Rs 1,280 per quintal in the past.