Centre eyes a rich election harvest with MSP decision

Centre eyes a rich election harvest with MSP decision

NEW DELHI: The maximum hike in minimum support price (MSP) of Rs 1,400 per quintal for moong over the last kharif season and a nearly 97% increase for bajra over the cost of production could deliver a political dividend for BJP in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh due for polls later this year.

Both states where BJP faces a tough electoral challenge — a fourth term in MP and a tradition of anti-incumbency in Rajasthan — are main producers of these two crops and the MSP hikes might come in handy to address rising expectations in rural communities, said political sources.

Officials closely associated with procurement of pulses said almost 90% of the moong dal is acquired from Rajasthan, MP and Maharashtra. Though bajra is hardly procured barring small quantities in Haryana, government data show Rajasthan and Gujarat have the highest share of acreage under cultivation.

“Bajra is not procured since there is no scope of dispose it off. However, with the Centre now hiking the assured price and committing it will procure whatever the farmers sell, the state governments concerned can buy from the producers and pay them the MSP. That will be a big boost to farmers,” said a government source.

Though the National Food Security Act provides for distributing coarse grain at Rs 1 per kg to identified beneficiaries, this is hardly practiced. “So, if the government wants to push procurement of bajra and other millets, it can happen in a big way,” said another official engaged in the procurement of paddy and wheat across the country.

Food minister Ram Vilas Paswan said the Centre along with state procurement agencies would make a big effort to ensure farmers get MSP for all their produce. “Efforts are being made to create enough storage for keeping the grain. We are committed to ensure no farmer is deprived of getting the assured price,” he added.

However, experts said the government has a demanding task for procurement considering that as of now only 35% of paddy and wheat produced annually is procured and it’s less at 20-25% in the case of pulses and oilseeds.

“Currently, market price of all the crops is below the MSP and farmers are still selling them since they have no option. It will be a tough task. Announcing MSP and ensuring the assured price are two different things,” said an expert in agri marketing sector.

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