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Business News/ News / India/  Govt hopes to resolve farmers protest before wheat procurement season
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Govt hopes to resolve farmers protest before wheat procurement season

UP, Bihar and Rajasthan may kick off procurement early, says food and public distribution secretary Sanjeev Chopra

Farmers rest next to a tractor trolley at a makeshift camp during a protest to demand minimum crop prices, near the Haryana-Punjab state border at Shambhu. (Photo: AFP)Premium
Farmers rest next to a tractor trolley at a makeshift camp during a protest to demand minimum crop prices, near the Haryana-Punjab state border at Shambhu. (Photo: AFP)

New Delhi: The government hopes to resolve the farmers’ protest before the wheat procurement season starts in March, food and public distribution secretary Sanjeev Chopra said on Thursday, adding that the protest is unlikely to impact wheat procurement in Punjab and Haryana.

Thousands of farmers from Punjab are gathered on the doorsteps of the national capital demanding the Centre legislate on minimum support price, or MSP and implement the Swaminathan Commission's recommendations. They also want pension for farmers and farm labourers, and farm debt waiver.

“I am hopeful the issues will be resolved much in advance of the procurement season. I don’t think it (the farmers’ protest) will have an impact on wheat procurement (in Punjab and Haryana). A dialogue is going on," Chopra said. 

“The government gave an offer to address farmers’ concerns. Maybe we couldn’t communicate the full intent behind the offer. I think constant communication will help resolve the gaps."

He said the season's wheat crop is in good condition, and that procurement will start early in some states, including Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Rajasthan, depending on arrivals. This comes in the backdrop of lower procurement for the past two seasons in these states, especially Uttar Pradesh.

“We have been talking to state governments and farmers in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Rajasthan for the past 3-4 months to come up with a special action plan for wheat procurement. I have visited these states along with Punjab and Haryana and spoken with the concerned officials," Chopra said. 

“The action plan involves many components. First, our research found that in some regions, wheat comes to the market earlier but due to conditions, we procure it from 1 April. This leads to a miss in procurement in the initial 15-20 days of arrival in the market. Now we have given freedom to states to fix (the date). In some states, we will kick off wheat procurement between March 1-15. UP confirmed this morning that they would start procuring wheat from 1 March. The idea is to ensure that the wheat procurement season coincides with the arrivals in the market.

"Second, we are trying to ensure an adequate number of procurement centres amid a mismatch in production and procurement. We saw a mismatch in the areas which showed higher production and more arrivals but fewer centres and thus lower procurement. With more procurement centres, farmers will not have to travel long distances to sell their produce.

"The third is to ensure that farmers get their payments within 48 hours, and we have a huge campaign going on, particularly in these three states, to create awareness among farmers. These are the three major components through which we are trying to ensure that wheat procurement is enhanced," Chopra explained.

Quoting government officials, Mint earlier reported that the Centre was in talks with Rajasthan, UP and Bihar to increase the procurement of wheat and coarse grains in the next 2024-25 rabi season after significantly lower Central purchases in these three states.

In the previous rabi season, the governments of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar procured 214,981 tonnes and 589 tonnes of wheat as against a target of 3.5 million tonnes (mt) and 1mt, respectively, while Rajasthan procured 438,000 tonnes.

Chopra also said there is no proposal to allow any further diversion of sugar for ethanol production.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday said his government is committed to fulfilling resolutions aimed at the welfare of farmers across the country.

Union agriculture minister Arjun Munda said that though several rounds of meetings have been held with protesting farmers, more efforts must be made by both sides to reach a consensus. Munda is in a team of union ministers holding talks with the farmer union leaders.

The Union government has spent 18.39 trillion in the last 10 years on procurement of wheat, paddy, oilseeds, and pulses as against 5.5 trillion by the UPA regime. The Centre has ensured the supply of fertilisers at a reasonable rate, the secretary said.

"India is paying the highest price for sugarcane in the world," Chopra added, referring to a Cabinet decision to hike sugarcane prices paid by sugar mills to farmers by 8%.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Puja Das
Puja Das is a New Delhi based reporter, covering food, farm, fertiliser, water, and climate change policies for Mint. Puja reports on food security, farmers' distress and how the agriculture sector is impacting India's rural economy along with policy initiatives to help meet the pledges made at COP21 in Paris. Puja holds a post-graduation degree in Broadcast Journalism from the Indian Institute of Journalism & New Media, Bangalore.
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Published: 22 Feb 2024, 08:05 PM IST
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