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Farmers question Centre’s agri-commodity import policy

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Import of urad (black gram or black matpe) into the country could be affected this year due to the political unrest in Myanmar. But instead of importing urad from other countries, the government must encourage farmers to increase the cultivation of urad and help India to become ‘Atmanirbhar’, say Maharashtra farmers who have questioned the government’s import policies that are affecting the farming community.

During 2019-20, the import of agri-commodities was $19.91 billion and the import of vegetable oils constituted the largest share (48 per cent).

“Higher prices for the food items that are regular in the country would result in more cultivation. More production essentially means that the government will not have to depend on import. The trading community insists on import the moment prices of agriculture produce go just above the MSP. The import policy is harming farmers and farming,” says agriculture analyst Deepak Chavan.

Tur farmers in Marathwada and Vidarbha region were expecting about ₹8,500-8,700 per quintal against the MSP of ₹6,000, but the government decided to extend the deadline for allowing tur imports.

“Farmers were expecting to recover losses incurred in cotton and soyabean by selling tur at higher prices. But the government extended the permission for tur import till December 2020 and reduced the rate of raw tur in the market by over ₹2,000 per quintal. How can farmers double their income if the government creates hurdles to achieve it?,” asks farmer PP Pawar.

Interestingly, the Ministry of Agriculture told Lok Sabha on Tuesday that India’s agricultural imports are mainly dominated by vegetable oils, pulses, cashew nuts, fresh fruits and spices. “To reduce dependency on imported pulses and edible oils, government has been implementing various programmes such as National Food Security Mission (NFSM) and NFSM-Oilseeds and Oil Palm, to improve the production of pulses and essential edible oils in the country. Besides, under Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY), funds are being provided to states for improving the production of pulses,” Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar told the House.

He added that with a view to ensure self-sufficiency in agriculture, the government is also implementing several flagship schemes.

“In October last year, the average onion price at Lasalgaon had touched ₹5,000 per quintal as the supply of good quality onion dipped. But prices came down drastically after Centre’s intervention to import onion and ban export. The modal price of red onion immediately came down to ₹1,800 per quintal in Lasalgaon, while the price of summer onion dropped to ₹1,400. The drop continued for months,” says Bharat Dighole, President, Maharashtra State Onion Grower’s Association.

He said that the government’s policies and actual actions are contradictory and are harming farmers in a big way.

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