The government on Wednesday said it plans to purchase rice and cotton worth almost Rs 175,000 crore in the next few months, speaking out ahead of its proposed meeting with 31 Punjab farmer organisations protesting against new laws freeing up agriculture trade.
“Punjab along with Haryana, together contribute around 40 per cent of the rice and wheat procured for the Central pool,” agriculture secretary Sanjay Agarwal told reporters in a briefing attended by his counterparts from the ministry of food and consumer affairs, textiles and the Chairman of Food Corporation of India (FCI).
Agarwal reiterated the government’s statement that the minimum support price mechanism will remain. PTI reported that farmer groups from Punjab have rejected the government's invitation for talks.
Agarwal said since September 26 around 1.5 million tonnes of rice has been procured from 37,000 farmers in Punjab and Haryana and a more than Rs 2800 crore has been transferred into their accounts.
This is around 23 per cent more than the paddy procured during the same period last year.
Farmers in Punjab, Haryana and some parts of Western Uttar Pradesh have protesting three Acts passed by Parliament, fearing that the legislations which facilitate out of mandi transactions without any tax will lead to withering away of the procurement system.
The All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination (AIKSCC), a conglomeration of over 100 farmer groups, protested at the residence of Haryana's Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala demanding he clear his stance on the bills.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi too has been holding strong protests against the bills and has promised farmers in Punjab to withdraw the acts if Congress comes to power in the Centre.
Opposition-ruled states of Punjab, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, meanwhile are planning to pass laws in their state assemblies that will prohibit any purchase whether inside or outside the mandis at below the minimum support price.
Other states such as Odisha, Maharashtra and Telangana have also constituted committees to study the provisions of the Acts and there are looking at ways to minimize its impact, while Punjab has decided to approach the Supreme Court challenging the bills.
Meanwhile, on procurement, the union agriculture and food secretary said that apart from rice and cotton, the Central government is also planning to purchase around 3.2 million tonnes of pulses, oilseeds and copra from the farmers of Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Gujarat, UP, Andhra Pradesh etc.
In case of cotton, the union textiles secretary said that the Cotton Corporation of India (CCI) is planning to purchase 12.5 million bales of cotton from farmers in 2020-21 season that has started from October, which is almost 16 per cent more than the purchases done in 2019-20. (1 bale=170 kilograms)
“Last year, we transferred around Rs 28,500 crore as MSP to farmers while this year, we plan to transfer around Rs 30,000 crore to farmers,” textiles secretary Ravi Capoor said.
Cotton production in 2020-21 is estimated to be 36 million bales, which is marginally more than 35.7 million bales last year.
“We are duty bound to procure all the cotton that meets our quality specifications which is it should have less than 12 per cent moisture content and wherever there have been reports of rejection of cotton it is due to high moisture content,” Capoor said.
Punjab and Haryana, which are also major cotton producing regions, 38 procurement centres have been opened which is more than last year.