Over two months into the rabi sowing season, the acreage of winter crops continues to trail the year-ago level. As many as 11 out of 14 kharif crops fetch 5-32% lower than their respective MSPs in the mandis, leaving less cash in the hands of farmers to undertake sowing operation. Wheat is the only major crop which has seen a rise of about 2% in the sowing areas at 194.5 lakh hectares as of December 7 from the year-ago period. The acreages of gram (chana), lentil (masur), barley and maize remain lower than last year during this time while mustard coverage is flat, according to data released by the agriculture ministry last Friday. \u201cLoan waiver to farmers cannot be a permanent solution, it can only provide temporary relief. We want to make farmers capable enough to repay their loans rather than seeking waiver,\u201d BJP\u2019s Kisan Morcha chief Virendra Singh Mast said. However, the government may have to rethink its strategy after the result of five Assembly polls are declared on December 11. Many exit polls have predicted defeat for the BJP in these polls, where farmers\u2019 distress was a major narrative. According to the official agmarknet data, the average price of common variety paddy in Burdwan, West Bengal (India\u2019s largest rice-producing state) has further dipped to about 16% below its MSP of Rs 1,750 per quintal as of December 6. The average paddy rate was 11% lower than MSP during October. Prices of tur and urad have increased from the October level but still lower by 21%, 35%, from their MSPs, respectively, as on December 5 in the producing centres. Mandi prices of these crops were 34% and 41% lower than MSP during October. Moong prices, however, remain about 31% lower than its MSP since the kharif harvest season started from October 1. The agriculture ministry initially budgeted for just Rs 200 crore for price support schemes, but the Cabinet has raised the budgetary provision to over Rs 15,000 crore for the implementation of PM-AASHA for crop year 2018-19 (July-June). Launching PM-AASHA in September, the government had claimed it would ensure farmers receive MSPs for their crops. But the quantity of oilseeds and pulses procured so far this season shows that the scheme hasn\u2019t yet made any material difference to the mandi prices. For as many as 14 crops in kharif 2018, the government had earlier announced MSP hikes in the range of 4-52% in sync with the policy to keep MSPs at 1.5 times the cost. While the overall rabi sowing itself down 6% at 414.3 lakh hectares from the year-ago period, acreage of coarse cereals has dropped 26% at 33 lakh hectare as on December 7. At 113.7 lakh hectares, the area under pulses also remains more than 10% less than the level by this time in the last rabi sowing season.