Monday, May 9, 2011

Permit food grain exports and provide relief to farmer: Dr. JP

Farmers have no alternative to launching direct action, including traffic blockade, if Governments do not ensure a fair price for agricultural produce, said Lok Satta Party President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan here today.

Addressing leaders of independent farmers’ organizations drawn from all over the State and representing diverse crop growers, Dr. JP pointed out that the Governments ignored their plight, as they did not display unity in fighting for their common cause of getting higher incomes.

A long-term solution to the crisis in the agrarian sector manifested by the declining rural per capita income lies in its liberalization from the license-permit-quota raj. Pending such liberalization, the Governments at the national and State levels could take many steps, Dr. JP said.

The meeting took place against the backdrop of rice and wheat growers all over the country not getting even the minimum support price fixed by the Union Government itself. The meeting formed a Steering Committee to decide on the future course of action.

Making out a case for rice and wheat exports, Dr. JP said that the Food Corporation of India had 44.2 million tons of rice and wheat in its warehouses against the buffer stock norm of 21.2 million tons in April 2011. The buffer stocks will go up with bumper rabi harvests.

Dr. JP said that if the farmer were to get a fair price for his produce, the Government should permit exports more so now when international cereal prices of cereals are ruling high because of crop failures in countries like Russia, Pakistan, and China and the country has more than adequate buffer stocks to meet food security. Exports will also help cut storage costs and wastage caused by rains and rodents.

He added that greater offtake through the public distribution system (PDS) following the adoption of the proposed Food Security Act would not work. The move to ensure food security to 90 percent of rural and 50 percent of urban people through the PDS is unsound in principle and practice. It is bad in principle because it will further depress the markets and deepen the agrarian crisis. It is bad in practice because of phenomenal corruption in the PDS.

Again as part of a long-term solution, Dr. JP said, there must be open borders for non-food crops and farmers have freedom to export if there is a price advantage. There should be a modern import duty on import of agricultural produce to afford protection to Indian farmers. The Government should pass on the revenue thus generated to farmers of the same commodity as an incentive to boost production. In respect of perishable commodities, the solution lies in compressing the market chain, and promoting cold storage and processing facilities.

Dr. JP wanted the Union and the State Governments to ensure that the farmer received the MSP for paddy. The State Government could grant a bonus of Rs.100 per quintal of paddy, considering that it collects Rs.1500 crore on rice procurement in the form of rural development cess and value added tax. The Union Government should permit export of about 5 million tons of rice by State agencies like the FCI, STC and MMTC without any preconditions on sale price. Any price that covers the costs and generates even marginal profit is to the advantage of the farmer and the country.

Dr. JP said that the State Government permitted movement of some rice outside the State following an agitation by farmers’ organizations and warning from the Union Government. The Union Government has to permit export of rice outside the country if the farmer were to benefit.

Dr. JP said that the farmers’ organization would set a deadline and resort to direct action if the Governments do not respond. Meanwhile, it would promote awareness and unity among farmers.

The Steering Committee comprises Messers R.Chengal Reddy, Y.Nagendra Nath, A.Prabhakar Reddy, Balarami Reddy, SP Shankar Reddy, Y.Pichhaiah Yadav, Dasaratharami Reddy, Siddha Reddy, Satya Vani, Kesava Reddy, Narasimha Reddy, Nageswara Raju, Nagi Reddy, Anamolu Gandhi and Kongara Gangadhara Rao. P. Bhaskara Rao is the convenor of the Committee.

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