Rajasthan millet farmers await MSP dream

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By Amarpal Singh Verma

Hanumangarh, July 12 (IANS): Even though Rajasthan has been at the forefront of millet cultivation in India – with 41% of the country’s production coming from the arid state – political wrangling has plagued buying the ‘superfood’ under the MSP scheme and have discouraged the State Farmers.

“When there is no supply at MSP, we only produce the amount of millet we need for ourselves and our livestock. If the government buys it from MSP, then we can produce it over more than Not buying millet at this price, even after setting the rates, shows the government’s attitude towards farmers,” laments Krishan Kumar, a farmer from Nohar in Hanumangarh district of Rajasthan.

The frustrations of farmers like Kumar over millet production are not unwarranted.

While the central government had raised the minimum support price (MSP) for millets from Rs 2,250 to Rs 2,350 per quintal over the past year, the ‘super food’ has hardly pleased farmers in the state. While the MSP for millet is announced every year, there has been no purchase in Rajasthan over the past decade.

Moreover, while the central government, for the financial year 2022-23, estimated the production costs of millets at Rs 1,268, farmers believe that the assessment is well below reality.

“If the supply does not take place at the MSP even this year, farmers will be forced to sell their produce on the open market, where rates vary between Rs 1,200 and Rs 1,500 per quintal. This means that we are getting a lot less in return for our input costs,” says Rampal Jat, the national chairman of Kisan Mahapanchayat, adding that farmers will face a loss of Rs 700 to Rs 1,000 per quintal this year.

Ironically, these developments took place while the central government was promoting millet at the highest level. After India presented its case, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously declared 2023 the “International Year of Millet”. Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi had extolled the virtues of the superfood.

Farmers grow millet across the state, but no proportion of the crop is purchased at the minimum sale price. The last purchase of millet by the MSP took place during the 2011-12 financial year.

And in a state like Rajasthan, which offers ideal conditions for very few crops, sometimes millet is the only option.

“In Nagaur district alone, farmers grow millet on 60-70% of their land. In such dry conditions, we have to rely on the monsoon for water, and millet doesn’t need much water. ‘water,” says Bhanvar Singh Sangwan, the former sarpanch. from Karwasaron Ki Dhani to Nagaur.

Farmers Jagdish Nayak and Bholaram from Jhadeli, Nagaur district, stress that the government urgently needs to ensure they get the right price for millet.

Amar Singh Jakhad, a farmer from Pallu, Hanumangarh district, thinks the government needs to set up supply centers for farmers to sell their millet products. He adds that even though the MSP for the grain crop is not that high, sourcing at these rates would be a big relief for the farmers.

The road to Haryana

Over the years, millet farmers in the districts of Rajasthan bordering Haryana have sought to sell their produce in the neighboring state. However, this route was closed after the government led by Manohar Lal Khattar in Haryana included millets under its Bhavantar Bharpayi Yojana. Under this program, the government pays the farmer the difference between the MSP and the price the farmer gets for his produce in the market.

This puts the Rajasthani farmer out of the picture. For a farmer to avail the benefits of the Haryana government scheme, online registration is a must. As a result, millet farmers in Rajasthan can no longer sell their produce in Haryana.

“While the farmers in Haryana are assured that they will get the difference between the market price and the MSP, the farmers in Rajasthan get neither the MSP for their produce nor any price difference,” the president said. by Kisan Panchayat, Rampal Jat, to 101Reporters.

Poor lifespan?

While listing the various reasons for not procuring millet from the MSP, Rajasthan Cooperatives Minister Udaylal Anjana says the shelf life of millet is very low. Farmers, however, ridiculed this claim.

Farmer Dhannaram from Jhadeli says, “We have been consuming millet for generations. The product sometimes lasts three years. Yes, due care should be taken to ensure that the product does not spoil.

Meanwhile, Bhanvar Singh Sangwan of Kadvastro ki Dhani tells 101Reporters: “Sometimes even if you store millet for three years, its nutritional value does not decrease. Even during famines, millet can be relied upon.

Protests bring no fruit, but the only way

Protests demanding the purchase of millet from the MSP have become an annual event. However, these demonstrations never yielded concrete results.

Farmers demonstrated in Jaipur last year, but it did not yield significant results for their demands.

Last year, following a call from the Kisan Panchayat, farmers demonstrated in Jaipur and submitted a memorandum to Chief Secretary Niranjan Arya. Apart from some reassurances from him, nothing solid happened on the pitch.

However, this did not deter farmers. Once the monsoon resumes in July, they will start sowing millet all over Rajasthan. At harvest time on Diwali, farmers are expected to again increase their demands for MSP. Farmers’ organizations have already started preparing for this.

A constant back and forth of accusations

Responding to a question in the Rajasthan state assembly last year, Cooperatives Minister Udaylal Anjana claimed that the purchase of millets could not be done due to a lack of central government approval. . However, MP Barmer and Minister of State (MoS) in the Union Ministry of Agriculture, Kailash Choudhary had responded to Anjana’s claims, saying that the Rajasthan government had not sent a proposal for purchase of millet from the MSP.

Furthermore, in a 2021 letter to Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, Choudhary said: “Although the government of Rajasthan does not buy millet, the central government is ready to distribute the grain under the system. of public distribution.”

Choudhary also urged Chief Minister Gehlot to expedite the supply of millet to the MSP so that the central government can distribute it under the PDS.

Rajasthan leads in millet production

More than 41% of all millets produced in the country come from Rajasthan. Last year, the total area under millet cultivation in the state stood at 43.7 lakh hectares; 43.3 lakh tons of millet were harvested.

Farmers across the state grow millet, but no proportion of the crop is purchased from MSP. The last purchase of millet by the MSP took place during the 2011-12 financial year. Interestingly, market rates at the time were above the support price. As a result, farmers were reluctant to sell their produce to the government. Therefore, no purchase of millet from the MSP took place that year. Subsequently, the state government did not once purchase millet from farmers at the minimum support price.

Apart from the alleged short shelf life of millets, the government of Rajasthan has given several reasons for abandoning this practice. He also claimed there was less demand for millet in the state, also claiming issues with grain storage.

Stuck in a dead end

Regarding the position of the central government, MoS Kailash Choudhary maintained that the Center is ready to approve the purchase of mils under the MSP – but with a rider: if the purchase of mils by the MSP is approved , Rajasthan would only get millets under the PDS, not wheat. This became a thorn in the side of the Rajasthan government, which ultimately refused the deal.

On how the millets would be procured from MSP, Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Food and Civilian Supply, Ramswaroop, told 101Reporters: “The department has passed records regarding this purchase from MSP to the government. A group A task force will then be formed to assess the millet needs. After that, a task force meeting will be held to decide on the supply. But the final decision rests with the chief minister.”

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