The Centre has raised the minimum support price of wheat by Rs 50, or 2.6 per cent, to Rs 1,975 per quintal amid growing farmer unrest against two pieces of legislation that seeks to encourage contract farming and allow farmers to directly sell their produce to institutional buyers such as big traders and retailers by bypassing state-regulated mandis.
Besides, MSPs of lentil (masoor), gram, barley, safflower and mustard/rapeseed have been increased.
The move came a day after Parliament approved two agriculture sector-reform bills which have been bitterly opposed by the opposition parties such as the Congress and Trinamul as well as from within ruling NDA alliance over apprehension that the new legislations might virtually end MSP-based procurement by the government.
Farmer groups in Punjab, Haryana and some other states are also protesting the two bills — The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020 and The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020.
Tomar said the MSPs of six rabi crops were approved by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday, a move aimed at encouraging farmers ahead of the sowing operations of winter crops.
Announcing the increased MSPs for the six rabi crops for 2020-21 crop year (July-June) and 2021-22 marketing season, Tomar said MSP of gram has been increased by Rs 225 to Rs 5,100 per quintal.
MSP of barley has been hiked by Rs 75 to Rs 1,600 per quintal. Lentil MSP has been hiked by Rs 300 to Rs 5,100 per quintal.
MSP of mustard/ rapeseed have been raised by Rs 225 to Rs 4,650 per quintal, while that of saffflower has been hiked by Rs 112 to Rs 5,327 per quintal.
Analysts said the Modi-government support price does not address the structural shift in its agricultural policy which would have a significant impact on the farmers’ livelihood and food security of the country.
Biswajit Dhar of the Jawaharlal Nehru University said the two farm bills were meant to transform Indian agriculture to be export oriented.
But the country’s bilateral FTA engagements as well as in the WTO, partner countries are unlikely to accept India’s export oriented stance, while its own market remains largely protected behind high tariffs.
“But, before comprehensively opening India’s market to import, the government must have a plan in place for sustaining domestic food security and to also protect the livelihoods of almost 60 per cent of the workforce that is directly or indirectly dependent on agriculture,” Dhar said.