Relief for farm sector

New Delhi, July 26 | Updated: Jul 27 2006, 05:30am hrs
A slew of proposals pertaining to the agriculture sector are to come up for approval by the Cabinet on Thursday.

These include pricing policy for kharif crops of 2006-07, agriculture credit relief package for debt-trapped farmers in select districts and relaxation of quarantine, and sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) specifications for wheat imports under Open General Licence by the private trade.

The minimum support prices (MSPs) of several summer crops like rice, coarse cereals including maize, oilseeds, pulses, sugarcane and cotton are likely to be revised upwards on the basis of recommendations submitted by the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices.

The governments low purchase price for wheat recently came under sharp criticism as it could not procure enough wheat from farmers for maintaining the buffer stock. The private trade and MNCs took advantage of the low MSP for wheat and offered better prices to farmers.

According to agriculture ministry sources, the government now intends to adequately increase the MSPs for a number of crops grown in the current summer season.

Failing to procure enough wheat for the buffer stock, the government plans to import 3.5 million tonne wheat and allow food companies and MNCs to import wheat against a reduced duty of 5%. As the quarantine and SPS norms in the country are quite stringent, the government relaxed these specification thrice. Private trade and MNCs have now demanded the quality norms be further relaxed to allow them to import wheat against zero duty.

CCEA is slated to deliberate on this issue on Thursday. In the lines of the Rs 375-crore relief package announced by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently for Vidarbha farmers, the Centre has planned relief package for debt-traped farmers in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and few other states. The finance ministry has proposed this package for approval by the CCEA.