The Union government has decided to constitute four committees, of representatives from major farmers’ association and government officials, to examine and make recommendations on issues related to agricultural markets and farm incomes.
One committee is to recommend on safeguards for growers in the wake of the permission for foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retailing. Three others are to respectively examine the methodology of assessing the cost of cultivation for determining the Minimum Support Price (MSP) of various agricultural commodities, to address apprehensions related to dumping of farm produce because of free trade agreements and to clear doubts over land acquisition issues.
This decision was taken after a three-hour meeting between ministers and farmers’ representatives.
The government side was represented by agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, food minister K V Thomas, rural development minister Jairam Ramesh, fertiliser minister Srikant Jena, minister of state for commerce D Purandeshwari and minister of state for finance N N Meena. Officials said another motivation was the agitation for some days in this capital city by farmers bodies and civil society organisations.
The committees have been asked to give their reports in the next 90 days. The first meeting, of the committee to examine the cost of cultivation, will be on April 1. Officials said it is expected to chaired by former member of Planning Commission and noted economist Y.K. Alagh.
“We want the government to change its mechanism for calculating the MSP. Why should it be minimum price?, Instead, it should apply the Swaminathan formula of cost plus 50 per cent increase in MSP,” said Yudvir Singh, a farmers’ representative.
He also said the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) recommendations weren’t in the interest of farmers. “The government should instead set up a farmers’ income commission,” Singh said. He said agriculture commodities should be kept out of the purview of free trade agreements or provided proper safeguards.
On FDI in multi-brand retail, the farmers representatives said the fear is that once the 30 per cent domestic sourcing clause is enforced, big multinational companies will dump cheap produce in India as almost 70 per cent of sourcing will be from outside India.
“We have also demanded that land acquisition issues should be settled as soon as possible and government should not purchase land on behalf of the industries and farmers should get market rate for their land not circle rates as suggested in the draft land acquisition Bill,” Singh said.