Soybean farmers in Maharashtra are a distressed lot.
Soybean farmers in Maharashtra are a distressed lot. In addition to falling prices, the farmers now have to deal with rejection from the government procurement agencies as well. In Latur, one of the key producing regions of soybean, there have been several instances of farmers being turned away from the government procurement centres since the soybean brought by them to the centres did not fit into the quality parameters set by the government. According to industry people, around 421 odd farmers have been turned away in the last couple of weeks. Lalitbhai Shah, chairman, Latur APMC said that there have been instances of several farmers being turned away and these farmers were now forced to come to the open market to sell at distress rates. Soybean’s Minimum Support Price (MSP) is Rs 2,850 a quintal, in addition to a Rs 200 bonus for farmers to encourage sowing. Sadabhau Khot, Maharashtra minister of state for agriculture and marketing said that some 153 purchase centres have been opened across the state.
Soybean growers have faced the double whammy of falling agricultural prices and losses due to the vagaries of weather and prices at Latur have not increased beyond Rs 2,800 per quintal. When contacted, senior government officials from the State Agriculture Department in charge of the commodity agreed that some of the farmers were being turned away because of the high moisture content in their produce. As per government norms, 12% moisture content is permitted and the officials are now accepting soybean with 13% moisture content, the official said. However, officials cannot accept soybean with higher moisture content levels since this cannot be stored for long resulting in decay and infestation and an inquiry could also be conducted against such officials and therefore they do not accept such produce, he said.
According to him, around 23,813 quintals of soybean has been purchased from some 1,490 farmers in Latur so far. In Maharashtra, around 2.27 lakh quintals of soybean has been procured from major soybean growing regions till date from 15,700 farmers. The official maintained that while the procurement was slow initially, the pace has picked up in the last few days. While arrivals are to the tune of some 40,000 quintals a day, government procurement is barely between 20 quintals, 50 quintals or 100 quintals a day, Shah had said. The online registration process is proving to be a big hurdle since the farmers have to submit paperwork and are then issued a token and called at a later date. he pointed out. Moreover, once the produce is taken to the centre, it has to meet the parameters set by Nafed and on several occasions the product is rejected by the centres, he said.
According to officials, the produce being brought to the market has moisture content levels of 14-16%, resulting in lower rates. He suggested that the farmers could dry out the soybean in sunlight before bringing it to the centres to avoid such instances. The estimated production of soybean is 35.74 lakh tonnes in the state and most parts of Vidarbha and Marathwada grow the oil crop. Maharashtra is one of the largest producers of soybean in the country. Officials said that the reduction in demand of soybean from key markets like China is also one of the reasons for the dip in the markets.
The state released the bonus of Rs 200 per quintal, which it had announced for soybean farmers last year, only in October.
The delay in disbursement has hurt producers as the minimum support price (MSP) of Rs 3,050 is lower than the production cost. Farmers have alleged that their produce is being “indiscriminately” rejected by the centres instituted by the state to buy soybean. Khot had earlier written to Union finance minister Arun Jaitley and Union minister for transport Nitin Gadkari seeking restrictions on soybean import and to increase the export incentive from 5% to 10%.