Ahmedabad: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is hopeful that the centre’s decision to hike the minimum support prices (MSP) of 14 kharif crops will give it the much-needed impetus in rural Gujarat, ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The party, which had faced a jolt in the 2017 Gujarat elections, is working out various strategies to retain all 26 Lok Sabha seats it had won in 2014.
“The centre’s decision on MSP will give a huge boost to the agriculture and farm sector. It will certainly help the BJP strengthen its hold in the rural areas of Gujarat," said Yamal Vyas, a state BJP spokesperson. “Earlier, there was a perception that kharif sowing will be lower this year. But thanks to the MSP hike and the forecast of good rainfall, we expect sowing to reach 100%," he added.
On 4 July, the central government announced the hike in MSP of kharif crops to move closer to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s promise of doubling farmer income by 2022.
The government procures crops from farmers at the MSP, irrespective of its market price. The move protects farmers from a sharp fall in farm prices and acts as a base price during production shortages.
According to the Gujarat’s agriculture department, progress of kharif sowing has increased almost threefold since the announcement of the MSP hike to reach 2.37 million hectares as on 9 July from just about 871,000 hectares on 2 July.
However, the overall progress for the kharif (mid-June to September) sowing is lagging by 48.23% compared to that of last year.
Deficient rains in some of the cotton- and groundnut-growing regions may be a concern, despite the area under cultivation doubling to 1.14 million hectares as on 9 July, from 492,000 hectares as on 2 July.
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“While sowing would have gone up recently due to rainfall in many parts of Gujarat, the minimum support price hike has given a major boost to farmers," said A.R. Pathak, vice-chancellor of Junagadh Agriculture University. “They are getting a good price for crops such as cotton and groundnut, hence, their cultivation area is likely to increase significantly in the next couple of months. However, the yield might go down this year."
To support farmers against falling prices, the centre, on the request of the Gujarat government, had started procuring groundnut through the National Agriculture Cooperative Marketing Federation (Nafed).
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Between October 2017 and January, Nafed had procured 800,000 tonnes of groundnut at ₹ 4,500 ( ₹ 4,450 MSP and ₹ 50 bonus by the state government) per quintal.
“This move of groundnut procurement has benefited many farmers across Gujarat, especially in the Saurashtra region, which is the leading producer of groundnut," according to Vyas of BJP. Saurashtra is critical for BJP’s electoral prospects, given that it lost a large number of seats to Congress in 2017 due to farm and rural distress.