Punjab, Kerala steal a march on State in agricultural price stabilisation

They grant legal status to MSP while Karnataka sits over KAPC’s 2018 report on the recommendation

Punjab and Kerala have stolen a march on Karnataka in terms of granting legal status to minimum support prices (MSP) either directly or indirectly with respect to some chosen crops. Though the Karnataka Agricultural Price Commission (KAPC) had mooted the concept in 2015 and come out with a recommendation backed by a roadmap in 2018, the State is yet to implement.

While Punjab has adopted three Bills that seek to prevent sale or purchase of paddy and wheat below MSP, Kerala has fixed base prices for 16 farm produce, including vegetables and fruits.

For 26 crops

The KAPC had come out with “multifaceted” recommendations in its report titled ‘Assured price and stable market for agriculture horticulture crops in Karnataka’ in 2017-18 that analysed 26 major crops of the State for estimated cost of cultivation, market arrivals, market analysis, and price forecasting. These crops accounted for 87% of the total cropped area in the State.

The recommendations included providing legal status to MSP by making it statutory minimum price. Dishonouring it was supposed to attract penalty. “Mere announcement of the MSP does not mean that it would be operational. Providing legal status to it ensures that it is always operational so that no time is lost in protecting the interests of farmers,” said T.N. Prakash Kammaradi, former chairman of the KAPC, during whose tenure the recommendation on providing legal status to MSP was made.

According to him, the report was in a crucial stage of discussion in 2019, but did not go through as the government collapsed soon after.

Dr. Kammaradi, who was involved in consultations by Punjab and Kerala, said the calculations by the KAPC had indicated that ₹10,000 crore was enough to ensure MSP for 17 major crops of the State, including onion, tomato, and areca, going by the market situation in the last five years.

The recommendations by the KAPC also included bringing about ‘Karnataka Agriculture Produce Procurement Responsibility Act’ to make it mandatory for the government to procure certain quantity of foodgrains at MSP under its various welfare schemes.

For welfare schemes

Dr. Kammaradi explained that 500 lakh quintals of farm produce was being used every year under various welfare measures, including public distribution system, midday meals, for government-run hostels, Integrated Child Development Scheme, and for Indira Canteen. Barring some schemes, purchases are being made through agencies or middlemen under tendering process where the contractor or supplier would not ensure MSP for farmers. He stressed the need for procuring produce directly from farmers at MSP for such welfare measures to bring about market stability.

Food and policy analyst Devinder Sharma observed that ensuring market stability would go a long way in providing a boost to agriculture sector which is in crisis. He argued that failure by the market to ensure remunerative prices to agricultural crops was the main reason for agrarian crisis. Karnataka should implement the recommendations of the KAPC to ensure legal status for MSP in the interest of farmers, he said.

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