Soon, price info system for farmers
The Union government will set up a price information and market intelligence system for farm produce to enable price discovery for farmers in accordance with provisions of a set of laws enacted to liberalise agricultural trade, according to an agriculture ministry presentation seen by HT.
“The government will employ the services of a central government economic organisation to develop this price information and market intelligence system for farmers,” a government official said, requesting anonymity.
The agriculture ministry is also undertaking a massive drive to publicise the three controversial laws that have led to protests by farmers groups in some states. “Agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar has written to over 200,000 sarpanches (village heads) in multiple languages to spell out the various provisions of the laws and the benefits to farmers from the reforms,” the official cited above said. The agriculture ministry has marshalled over 100 resource persons from central and state governments to educate farmers on the three Acts that bring the full force of liberalisation to the agriculture sector. These resource persons attended a training session last month, the official said.
He added that the price information and market intelligence system will be a web-based platform and will collate real-time data of production, arrivals of farm produce in markets, and demand and supply, to provide a profitable indicative price to farmers. The system will also have a mechanism to easily disseminate the price information to growers to help them negotiate better returns, possibly delivered on mobile handsets.
“For farmers, price has always been the real issue. Regardless of whatever system one has, the government will ultimately have to intervene to make good losses through procurement whenever there is a price crash,” said RK Mani, an economist with the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University.
The NDA government on September 24 passed three bills -- the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020; the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance, Farm Services Bill, 2020; and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill 2020 – despite protests by farmers’ outfits and opposition leaders. The reforms allow agribusiness to freely trade farm produce, permit private traders to stockpile essential commodities for future sales and lay down new rules for contract farming. A crucial change is that traders, agribusinesses and supermarkets can buy produce from any market, rather than buy only in notified markets where they are licenced to operate. These rules have angered farmers, particularly in Punjab, who fear the reforms could pave the way for the dismantling of the minimum support price (MSP) system, which offers growers an assured price, leave them vulnerable to powerful agribusinesses and in an even weaker negotiating position than before.
PM Narendra Modi has said, on several occasions, that the three laws have no bearing on the current system of assured prices, which will continue. But the Opposition has questioned why this has not been made explicit in the new laws.
Three Congress-ruled states -- Punjab, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan -- have passed their own farm laws to override the Central provisions. These, however, may yet be open to legal interpretation
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