Vol. XLI No. 02 January 08, 2017

KARNATAKA: Red Gram Growers' Convention Demands Remunerative Prices

Vijoo Krishnan

THE Karnataka Prantha Raitha Sangha (affiliated to AIKS) organised Red Gram/Arhar Dal Growers' Convention at Gulbarga on December 27, 2016. The convention was inaugurated by Vijoo Krishnan, AIKS joint secretary. Dr Lokesh from the University of Agricultural Sciences, Maruti Manpade, KPRS president, Bhimsi Kaladgi, KPRS vice president and others addressed the convention. It was attended by about 300 delegates representing the arhar/tur growers in the state. A resolution was adopted unanimously with specific demands and calling for united struggles.

The convention noted that the region which is the hub of arhar/tur in the state is facing a crisis wherein farmers are not getting remunerative prices, there is no effective procurement. Farmers claimed that there is also a ceiling on procurement and only the Grade A is provided the MSP of Rs 5,050/Qtl. They are forced to sell the remaining to private traders at as low as Rs 4200/Qtl to Rs 4,700/Qtl. The continuous struggles for enhanced prices had met with some success with the Karnataka state government announcing a bonus of Rs 450/Qtl. However, the KPRS had been demanding a bonus of Rs 1,000/Qtl as an incentive to farmers for growing the high risk crop dependent on rainfall. Farmers felt that at such prices it is impossible to continue cultivation of the crop which is a prime provider of proteins to the masses in India.

It is notable that the cost of production calculations for 2016-17 Kharif Marketing Season by the State Agricultural Departments in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka are Rs 5,722/Qtl, Rs 6,841/Qtl and Rs 5,100/Qtl respectively. The MSP calculated on the basis of weighted average cost of production and other factors falls far below even the cost of production in these states which are among the major producers of arhar/tur. MSP suggested by states were Andhra Pradesh – Rs 8,583/Qtl,  Telangana – Rs 10,261/Qtl, and Karnataka – Rs 6,500/Qtl. The lack of incentives, remunerative prices as well as failure to disseminate production enhancing techniques, better agronomic practices and quality seeds have all led to production falling short of domestic demand. The big corporate companies like Adani, Reliance, Tata, Birla and ITC rake in huge profits even as farmers get low prices. Retail prices of arhar/tur had gone up to Rs 230/Kg in 2015.  India imported a record 5.8 million tonnes of pulses in 2015-16 which was 80 percent more than in 2013-14 and there was a further 44.3 percent increase over previous year in 2016. High arrivals and excessive import of pulses in the last two years of over 54 lakh tonnes although the buffer stock proposal was 20 lakh tonnes according to reports had hit pulse growers adversely. Proper incentives, remunerative prices, transfer of production enhancing technology as well as better seeds and equipment could have helped increase domestic production.

Unfortunately, a government which talks of “Make in India” is seeking to “Make in Mozambique”. India is seeking to “shop for land” in Sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere and explore contract farming of pulses with involvement of private players. India has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with Mozambique to import one lakh tonnes in 2016-17 and double it to two lakh tonnes by 2020-21. Notably the Narendra Modi led BJP government has decided to import arhar/tur dal from Mozambique assuring farmers there that the Indian government will provide quality seeds, equipment and technology as well as procure at minimum support price (MSP) of Rs 5,050/Qtl. The entire carrying, transportation and storage also will be borne by India. However, there is no effort to ensure effective procurement from Indian farmers. There are also no provisions of quality seeds, equipment or technology transfer even at subsidised rates to Indian farmers.

The BJP government has betrayed its poll time promise of fixing MSP at 50 percent above cost of production as recommended by Dr Swaminathan Commission. Prices of seeds and other agricultural inputs are exorbitant. While even WTO provisions allow up to 30 percent import duty, the import duty from 2006 onwards is zero. Average price at which arhar/tur dal has been imported this year from Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania and Myanmar is US $ 1.18 or Rs 82/Kg. Between June and November arhar/tur dal from Malawi and Myanmar has been imported at Rs113/Kg and Rs144/Kg respectively. India is planning to farm pulses in these countries by engaging in contract farming with the involvement of private companies. According to reports Adani Ports has an agreement with Indian Pulses and Grain Association the apex organisation of import and export of pulses and grains whereby entire import and upkeep of pulses has been taken over by the Adani group.

Ironically, the much hyped Pradhan Mantri Fazal Bima Yojana has not been beneficial to farmers though they have paid the premium. Demonetisation has hit farmers hard and increased distress. Productivity in India is also fifty percent of that in Myanmar and no production enhancing techniques are being disseminated. In this season while there is greater production, there is no effective procurement. The Arvind Subramaniam Committee has recommended increased MSP of upto Rs 7000/Qtl in 2017 and Rs 8000/Qtl in 2018 which is positive. However, other suggestions call for deregulation and privatisation of procurement and increased stock limits which are detrimental to farmers and consumers.

A struggle will be launched including road roko, protests at ministers' offices and a dharna at parliament and also bandh in the areas growing arhar/tur. Farmers also resolved to explore possibilities of a cooperative with assistance from NABARD and other sources to procure, process and distribute pulses. It called for MSP of not less than 7500/Qtl, production incentives, subsidised inputs, assured procurement and revival of the Arhar/Tur Board. It also called for rejecting anti-farmer recommendations of Arvind Subramaniam Committee. Vijoo Krishnan also argued for special incentive of Rs 5000/Hectare for service to ecosystem as pulses fix nitrogen of about 40 Kg/Hectare naturally and nitrogenous fertilisers used in other crops are given subsidies. He also demanded that the high risk crop must be covered by insurance at zero premium, production incentives must be given as well as import duties of at least 15 percent must be fixed to protect Indian farmers.