The Agricultural Prices Commission of the Government of India has increased the Minimum Support Price (MSP) of wheat. Wheat is the main crop of Rabi season.
For 2023-24, the MSP has been increased by Rs 150 and the price of wheat has been fixed at Rs 2275 per quintal.
This is the highest increase so far, as the MSPs of crops were increased for two consecutive years in 2006-07 and 2007-08 during the UPA government, but they were low in comparison.
This MSP increase is not merely in view of the welfare of the farmers and their economic condition.
There is no possibility that this will lead to doubling of farmers’ income. Actually, there is a flaw in the basic system itself, because the farmer’s crop is not purchased at MSP.
The benefits of government procurement are extremely limited. Even 10-12 percent of the farmers are not able to avail its benefit, hence the farmers are forced to sell their crops in the agricultural markets only.
There, after many types of deductions, farmers do not even get MSP. Selling the crop is his compulsion, hence the farmer is forced to sell the crop even at a low price.
This question has been present before the farmers like a ‘Yaksha’ for many decades. Even 10 years of Modi government will pass, but the question of MSP will remain unanswered.
Well, it has constituted a committee, in which some farmer representatives are also included, but what is that committee doing, what conclusion has their discussion reached, has there been a consensus on the recommendation to give legal status to MSP, but it is long.
Despite the passage of time, nothing has been made public. Presently, announcing MSP has economic as well as political and electoral dimensions. This is the last increase in MSP before the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
Apart from this, the process of assembly elections is going on in five states. Voting will be held in November and the mandate will be declared on December 3. In these states, wheat is the main crop of Rabi season in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. MSP has been increased, obviously keeping an eye on the vote bank of the farmers.
However, during its nine and a half year tenure, the Modi government has increased the MSP of wheat by Rs 875 per quintal, whereas during the UPA government this increase was made by Rs 770 quintal.
The current government has also increased the MSP of paddy by Rs 873 per quintal, but during the 10-year period of the UPA government, this increase was made by Rs 760.
However, such comparisons are wrong because currency devaluation and inflation also have to be taken into account.
However, the increase in MSP has been announced when the wheat in government storages has been stated to be 239.95 lakh tonnes as on October 1. This minimum stock is just over 205.2 lakh tonnes.
There are also some concerns about the prospects of the new crop. Last year the water level in the major reservoirs of the country was 82.4 percent.
This average in the last 10 years has been 94.4 percent. A strong El Nino is expected to continue from winter through May, which will impact rainfall as a result.
Some rain comes only in winter, so along with humidity the temperature will also be low. This is a very important season for Rabi crop. Modi government is not in favor of taking any risk regarding shortage of supply in view of the general elections, hence wheat is being stored. In this context, government procurement will also increase and farmers will be able to get MSP, but how many percent will be such farmers? If there is a supply crisis, the government can also import wheat. Import is cheaper, but the question is why our farmers are not self-sufficient in producing wheat?