‘Wrong Cost Calculation’: Modi Govt’s Big Move to Woo Farmers Gets a Thumbs Down


New Delhi: The Cabinet’s decision to increase minimum support price (MSP) for Kharif crops, intended to appease farmers, does not seem to have struck the right chord.
CCEA in its meeting on Wednesday approved an increase in MSP for summer crops, especially paddy and dal, as a move to fulfil its Budget promise and address farmers’ concerns about the cost of crops.
The increase, however, is based on A2+FL formula, which takes into account actual cost plus the imputed value of family labour in the production of a crop.
Farmer associations across the country are unhappy with the cost calculations as they expected C2 costs to be taken into consideration. This formula factors in multiple costs, including imputed rent on land and interest on capital, which makes the cost of production much higher.
During the announcement of the Budget in February 2018, Arun Jaitley had said that the insurance of MSPs of Kharif crops at 1.5 times their costs will be based on the A2+FL costs, and not the more ambitious C2 costs formula favoured by farm scientist MS Swaminathan.
“The increase in MSP is not adequate. A2+FL does not factor in everything that goes in, in producing crops. Swaminathan report also states that it is C2 which needs to used to calculate MSP,” said Pushpendra Singh, a farm leader in Uttar Pradesh.
The move comes as a way to address farmers’ distress as major nationwide protests with various demands have taken place this year.
According to aggregated data provided by farmer associations in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Punjab and Maharashtra the current rise in MSP would have been approximately 40 percent higher had it been calculated on C2 costs.
The CCEA has approved a rise in MSP for paddy by approximately Rs 250 per quintal to Rs 1,800 per quintal. Earlier, the prices were at Rs 1,550 per quintal. The cost would have been Rs 2,250 had C2 costs been factored in.
The cost of the revised MSP is estimated to be around Rs 33,500 crore as of now.
Minimum support price is a form of market intervention by the government to insure farmers against any sudden fall in agricultural produce prices. The MSP is a guaranteed price for their produce from the State.
Farm associations are also now concerned about state governments improving purchasing mechanisms. “Now the ball is in the court of concerned states. They need to work meticulously on improving the amount and mechanism involved in purchasing of crops,” said Mohini Mohan, national secretary, Bhartiya Kisan Sangh.
Last week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced that the Union Cabinet will approve the increase in MSP to at least 1.5 times of the production cost in the forthcoming meeting.
Paddy is the main Kharif crop, the sowing of which has already begun with the onset of the southwest monsoon.
“In some of the Kharif crops where the MSP is already 1.5 times of the production cost, the increase will be minimal. But there will a sharp increase in crops like paddy, ragi and moong, whose MSP are well below the 150 percent of the input cost,” an official source had said prior to the meeting.
The MSP will largely apply to paddy and pulses but will benefit ‘nutri-cereals’ like millets the most. The added cost of MSP is 0.2 percent of GDP, according to the Cabinet note. The share of paddy in the additional outgo will be around Rs 12,300 crore.
A range of crops was covered by the latest MSP, unlike the usual focus on rice and wheat. A procurement mechanism is to be announced later. The highest priority, in calculating the cost of production, has been given to labour, which is about 53 percent while other costs like fertilisers, farm animals, pesticides, seeds and irrigation make up the remaining.