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Maharashtra to punish traders who buy farm produce below MSP

MUMBAI: A day after the Union Budget proposed to peg the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for all notified kharif crops at 1.5 times the cost of production, the Maharashtra government said it would make it an offence for traders to buy farm produce at lower prices.

A day after the Union Budget proposed to peg the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for all notified kharif crops at 1.5 times the cost of production, the Maharashtra government said it would make it an offence for traders to buy farm produce at lower prices.

“The Maharashtra government will soon enact a law, under which purchase of agriculture produce below the Minimum Support Price would be an offence,” Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis told reporters. The law could be enacted as early as the Budget Session of the Maharashtra Assembly, Fadnavis indicated.

However, farmer organisations are unimpressed by the Chief Minister’s assurances. Farm leader and Member of Parliament Raju Shetti, who heads the Swabhimani Shetkari Sangathana, said the onus was on the government to ensure that traders did not misuse the MSP programme. “The government must ensure that procurement of agricultural produce is made only from genuine farmers at the Minimum Support Price,” Shetti said.

The farm leader pointed out that traders more than farmers benefited from the Maharashtra government’s decision to spend Rs 400 crore on the purchase of tur last year when there was a bumper crop.

The opposition Congress and the NCP also pointed out that traders purchased tur at low prices from farmers and sold it at the government procurement centres, thus defeating the purpose of the MSP programme.

Even the calculation of MSP has come in for criticism from farm activists. The Swaminathan Commission has recommended that MSP be set using the C2 formula which takes into account the comprehensive input costs of the farmer. However, MSP is presently calculated using different formulae which only take into account the cost of certain inputs like seed and fertiliser, allege farm activists.

”The MSP rate for the wheat crop is just Rs 1,735 per quintal in 2018 as against Rs 1,625 in 2017. This will not give enough returns to farmers,” Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, Congress MLA and Leader of the Opposition in the Maharashtra Assembly said.

Political leaders from Vidarbha say MSP for cotton is just Rs 4,320 per quintal, while the production cost is around 7,240.

Leaders of the opposition Congress and NCP say they will now concentrate on ensuring that farmers are paid remunerative MSP for their crops.

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