TN farmers want right prices for produce, not subsidies

A paddy field that has been cultivated through machine. Farmers say this is the best way since finding labour is quite difficult.

Fifty-six-year-old K S Veerarajendran has been a farmer since his childhood having inherited a 6-acre farm from his father. His economic status has seen little change in the thirty years he has been actively involved in agriculture.

He cultivates paddy in his farm near Thirukattupalli in the fertile Cauvery Delta region. His land yielded 13 quintals of paddy in March 2019, but all that Veerarajendran was able to fetch for it was Rs 23,010. 

The government procured one quintal of paddy at a rate of Rs 1,770, which is just Rs 20 higher than the Minimum Support Price (MSP) of Rs 1,750 fixed by the Union government for the 2018-2019 season.

“The MSP has now become the Maximum Support Price,” Veerarajendran, who hails from Konerirajapuram village near Thiruvaiyaru noted. He said that if only farmers got between Rs 2,500 and Rs 3,000 for one quintal of paddy, would they be able to make profits. “Else, we will keep incurring losses and will be forced to quit farming one fine day,” he said.

Echoing Veerarajendran's thought, Mannargudi S Ranganathan, general secretary of Cauvery Delta Farmers Association, told DH that a farmer would not need any subsidy from the government, including free electricity, if he is given “legitimate price” for his produce.  

“The best subsidy that the government can provide to farmers is an excellent crop insurance scheme,” Ranganathan said.

On MSP, Ranganathan said the revised MSP was not enough for the paddy farmers and stressed on the implementation of the MS Swaminathan Committee report that recommended the government to provide 50 per cent profit over and above the cost of production to farmers.

“Farmers want the MSP to be around Rs 2,500 per quintal and I feel that is a reasonable and fair price for their produce. The inability of farmers to get the right price for their produce is the reason for farmers to demand subsidies. If they get the right price, they would never ask for any help from the government,” Ranganathan said.

The latest figures released by the Tamil Nadu government show that for 2018-2019, an area of about 35.37 lakh acres has been insured by 24.04 lakh farmers, out of which 20.56 lakh acres were covered under Paddy II season (Samba/Thaladi). 

Arul Jothi, a farmer in South Panaiyur village in Nagapattinam, pointed to the Chhattisgarh government giving a bonus to paddy farmers thus bringing the MSP to Rs 2,500 per quintal.

“Efforts like the one in Chhattisgarh should be taken to improve the economic status of farmers. We in Delta celebrated the news of farmers receiving Rs 2,500 for one quintal of paddy by distributing sweets. Just think what will happen if we get the same amount here. The farm produce and income will double,” he said.

‘Cauvery’ S Dhanapalan, General Secretary, Cauvery Farmers’ Protection Association, told DH that the input costs for raising a paddy crop has increased substantially in the past decade with a rise in the price of fertilisers and wages for farm labourers. However, the output price for paddy hasn’t gone up, leading to huge losses for the farmer who is dependent only on agriculture for his living.  

Farmers also spoke about the need to do away with providing free electricity that is often misused by fellow farmers. They said many keep their motors switched on for almost the whole day because they don’t have to pay electricity bills – electricity for agriculture comes without any cost in Tamil Nadu.

“I will be the first farmer who will be happy if the government withdraws its decision to provide free electricity to farmers. While it is useful, many people misuse the subsidies given by the government by keeping their motor on for hours together sucking up the groundwater entirely causing much damage,” V Veerasenan, a coconut farmer from Ponnavarayankottai village near Pattukottai told DH.

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