Kerala farmers take MSP for fruits with a pinch of salt

Kerala farmers take MSP for vegetables and fruits with a pinch of salt

A major concern of agriculture department officials is that if the farmers enhance their production to avail the MSP benefit

Even as Kerala government announced a Minimum Support Price (MSP) for 16 vegetables and fruits, the much-hyped decision has been taken only with a pinch of salt by farmers.

Delay in getting payments, red-tapism and issues over pricing involved are the general concerns of the farmers. Agriculture department officials are also concerned over the practical issues involved in the mass procurement of perishable items.

The state government maintained that the MSPs, which will come into effect from Nov 1, fixed by adding 20 per cent margin to the minimum production cost of each commodity. Procurement will be mainly through government agencies Horticorp and Vegetable and Fruit Promotion Council Keralam. The farmers will have to register in the state's agriculture information management system (aims.kerala.gov.in) and should also avail crop insurance.

While Vasudevan, a banana farmer at Wayanad district, told DH that the MSP fixed for banana (Rs 30 per kg for banana and Rs 24 for Wayanad banana) were reasonable, on the other hand, Pineapple Growers Association of Keralam president Baby John said that the price of Rs 15 fixed for pineapple was not at all reasonable as the government itself earlier estimated that the cost of production of banana was Rs 15.70 per kilogram.

Vasudevan's major concern was with regard to the approach of government agencies. "Earlier the government announced procurement of vegetables through Horticorp. Once the Horticorp procured from us. Later they did not respond to our repeated pleas to procure," he said.

Jayaprakash, a vegetable farmer of Idukki district's Vattavada, which is known for vegetable cultivation, said that even as government agencies offered a better price that the private middlemen, the delay in getting payments from government agencies was prompting most of the farmers of the locality to give their produce to middlemen who make immediate payment.

He also said that most of the farmers were not availing the crop insurance schemes mainly due to the cumbersome procedures involved in getting compensations, especially in case of events like loss due to animal attack. Spending time at government offices cause mandis loss to farmers, he said.

A major concern of agriculture department officials is that if the farmers enhance their production to avail the MSP benefit, the procurement agencies would be facing a major infrastructure crisis. As per the MSP scheme, a farmer can avail the benefit only for cultivation of 15 acres in a season. But no limit on the quantum of produce is prescribed.

Another issue being anticipated is the inflow of commodities at low rates from neighbouring states in case of any over-production. In such a scenario, procurement agencies would face a major crisis in selling the commodities procured.

Baby said that instead of initiating measures like MSP, which sounds like an election stunt, the government should have focused on promoting vegetables and fruits processing and value addition projects so that the farmers would obviously get a decent price.

"Generally governments are more pro-consumers than pro-farmers and hence government would only prefer keeping price of commodities low than addressing the concerns of farmers," he lamented.

MSP announced by Kerala Government (Rs. per kg)

Tapioca 12; Banana 30 / Wayanad Banana 24, Pineapple 15; Ash gourd 9, Cucumber 8, Bitter gourd 30, Snake gourd 16, string beans 34, Tomato 8, Ladies finger 20, Cabbage 11, Carrot 21, Potato 20, Beans 28, Beetroot 21, Garlic 139.