One of the agri bills that became an act recently assured farmers that under the ‘one nation, one market’ policy, they could sell crops anywhere in the country. The ground reality suggests otherwise.
Paddy procurement has started in markets across the country. Photo: Manish Mishra
The farmer will now be able to sell his crop at a price of his choosing in any market in the country, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted on September 18, as his government presented bills on agricultural reforms in Parliament. On September 27, these bills became laws.
Two days later, a confident Gurdeep Singh from Manyan village under Muzaffarabad block of Saharanpur district in Uttar Pradesh, took 85 quintals of paddy to Khirzabad mandi in Yamunanagar district, Haryana, to sell. He prefers to sell in Haryana as his non-basmati paddy is coarser than other varieties and does not fetch him the minimum support price (MSP) in Uttar Pradesh. To his surprise, nobody would buy from him.
“I have sold my paddy in this mandi before to the Haryana government at the minimum support price . Sometimes I have sold it outside the mandi at higher rates. But I could not sell this time,” a surprised Gurdeep told Gaon Connection.
“Kisan Bhai, beware of propaganda by the opposition … The agriculture bill has paved the way for progress… ‘one nation-one market’ policy will ensure that the farmers can sell their crops anywhere and to anyone, ” Narendra Singh Tomar, union agriculture minister, had tweeted on September 22.
But the farmers of Uttar Pradesh are waking up to the fact that, on the contrary to what Tomar said, they cannot sell their crops in Haryana. This, despite the recent reforms under the Agricultural Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, that gives farmers the right to sell their crops anywhere they want, across the country.
Ankit Kanboj from Bhogpur village of Bhat Tehsil in Saharanpur district of Uttar Pradesh had a similar experience found out otherwise too, after he carted 40 quintals of paddy to sell at the Yamunanagar mandi in Haryana on September 29. “While I have always got a good price in Haryana, this year, no one would buy my paddy,” he told Gaon Connection. Kanboj had travelled 50 kilometres with the harvest and had no intention of lugging it back. He left it with a trader. “Mandi officials told me that only after I receive a notification on my mobile asking me to come to the mandi on a specified date would I be able to sell my paddy there. Till last year, there were no such rules,” he added.
In the meanwhile, more than 50 farmers from Uttar Pradesh who were taking their paddy to sell at the mandis in Karnal, Haryana, were turned away at the border, a day after the agricultural bills became laws.
Karnal Deputy Commissioner Nishant Yadav had issued the orders prohibiting farmers from other regions across the border. In an interview to a local television channel, Yadav said that online registration for farmers of Uttar Pradesh would commence from October 5, after which they also could bring their crops to the mandis.
In the past, farmers from Saharanpur, Meerut, Muzaffarnagar, Ghaziabad, Bulandshahar, Baghpat and Hapur, have been selling paddy in the mandis of Haryana in Yamunanagar, Kurukshetra, Karnal, Panipat and Sonepat.
“There is no law that prevents farmers of other states from coming to Haryana and selling their produce. We have asked the farmers from Uttar Pradesh to register on our portal. At the right time, they will receive a message to sell their produce in the market on the appointed date. This makes it easier for us to buy produce from them,” Haryana’s additional chief secretary (food and civil supplies), PK Das explained at a press meet. The pandemic had delayed things, otherwise, every registered farmer would be notified through a message to come to the market, he added.
“Why do the governments of Punjab and Rajasthan not procure maize and bajra from their farmers? The farmers of these states come and sell their crops in Haryana,” Manohar Lal Khattar, Haryana’s chief minister asked in a video clipping. He said the Haryana government would first buy maize from its own farmers. This statement goes against the central government’s ‘one nation-one market’ policy and agricultural production trade and commerce (promotion and facilitation) act.
The minimum support price system in the country was brought in to ostensibly protect the interest of farmers. Even if the market prices of crops fall, the central government buys crops from the farmers at the fixed minimum support price to cushion them from loss.
But that does not seem to be happening. As per the central government website https://agmarknet.gov.in/, 5,979 tonnes of soybean have arrived in mandis across the country as of October 1, with the average model price of Rs. 3,463 as against the MSP of Rs 3,880 per quintal. Similarly, 5,355 tonnes of maize have reached the mandis, procured at Rs.1,163 as against the MSP of Rs. 1,850 per quintal.
Two days before the Agricultural Production Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act came into force, the average price of maize in mandis across the country was Rs. 1,287 per quintal. After the enactment of the law, the price of maize has fallen by more than Rs 550 per quintal.
In Ujjain, the largest soybean-producing district in Madhya Pradesh, things are looking down. “We are hardly getting Rs. 2,000 per quintal in the mandis while the MSP is Rs 3,880 per quintal. I had hoped the situation would improve with the implementation of the new law, but nothing really has changed,” Narayan Patidar from Dhelanpur village, about 60 km from the district headquarters of Nagda, told Gaon Connection.
Similarly, on September 25, 1,050 tonnes of cotton was procured in mandis of the country with an average price of Rs. 3,964 per quintal. This, when the MSP of long staple cotton is Rs. 5,825 and that of medium staple cotton is Rs. 5,515 per quintal.
When farmers across the country, especially in Uttar Pradesh and Haryana, were vociferously protesting the agri bills, especially the one that dealt with the procurement of wheat, paddy and other crops at MSP, the central government had time and again reassured them that they would continue to get the benefit of MSP. But the experiences of these farmers tell a different story.
Read this story in Hindi.