Red gram (tur dal) farmers in Karnataka, which have seen a steep rise in the cost of cultivation, have demanded a 50 per cent rise in the minimum support price (MSP) for 2013-14. The farmers have also seen crop damage due to the Helen cyclone in major parts of growing regions in the state. The prices of red gram in Gulbarga, the tur bowl of India, have crashed to Rs 3,600 a quintal, a decline of 16 per cent over the MSP declared for the year, due to the arrival of fresh crop. The central government has announced an MSP of Rs 4,300 a quintal for 2013-14. "The cost of cultivation has seen a steep rise due to rise in input costs. The prices of fertiliser (DAP) have gone up by 2.5 times to Rs 1,350 a bag as against Rs 530 a bag last year. Besides, labour shortage has resulted in the rise of daily wages to farm labourers," Basavaraj Ingin, president, Karnataka Pradesh Red Gram Growers' Association said. Gulbarga district in northern Karnataka contributes 15 per cent of national tur output. This year, 800,000 hectares was cultivated for tur and the estimated production was around 560,000 tonnes from here. He said the total cost of cultivation per acre amounts to Rs 12,000-14,000, which means the cost of cultivation per quintal of tur has touched Rs 4,500 a quintal as against the MSP of Rs 4,300 a quintal, making it uneconomical for the farmer to grow.
As a result of the price crash, which is below the MSP as well as cost of cultivation, it would be highly unremunerative to farmers, he said. "We have requested the central government through a memorandum to Union railway minister Mallikarjun Kharge, who hails from the tur growing region of Gulbarga, to enhance the MSP to Rs 6,450 a quintal based on the recommendations of M S Swaminathan in his Second Indian Farmers' Commission expert," Ingin said. The Government of India, instead of supporting farmers, has resorted to import of pulses, which are meant "for consumption of pigs". There has been a widespread damage to the tur crop in Karnataka due to Helen cyclone effect and the rains thereafter and heavy fog for three days subsequently. According to the estimates by the state agriculture department, the crop damage is about 80 per cent in Chincholi taluk and 70 per cent in Chittapur taluk. "There is a need to conduct a joint survey by the departments of agriculture and revenue and award a compensation of Rs 25,000 an acre wherever the crop is insured," Ingin said. The drop in production could be as high as 50 per cent across the state. At the national level, the pulses scenario was precarious. As against the country's requirement of 18 million tonnes, the production has been only 14 million tonnes. "The country can import a maximum of three million tonnes of pulses. And, this year in particular, there is an additional shortage of two million tonnes. There will be an overall shortage of three million tonnes," Ingin, who heads the pulses division of the Confederation of Indian Farmers Associations, added. He also urged the Karnataka government to intervene immediately and start procurement of tur through the Tur Development Board. "The Tur Development Board is totally defunct and it is necessary for the government to announce a Rs 100-crore financial assistance for the Board to procure tur from farmers. We have asked the state government to announce an additional support price of Rs 1,200 over and above the MSP of Rs 4,300 a quintal," Ingin added.