India’s agricultural imports are mainly dominated by vegetable oils, pulses, cashew nuts, fresh fruits and spices.
A section of farmers in Maharashtra feel that the Union government should encourage them to increase urad (black gram or black matpe) cultivation rather than import it.
This would help the country to become “Atmanirbhar” (self-reliant) say the farmers who have question the government’s import policies that might affect the farming community. Their views come on the heels of reports that urad imports into the country from Myanmar could be affected due to unrest in the neighbouring country.
“Higher prices for the food items that are regular grown in the country would result in more cultivation. More production essentially means that the government will not have to depend on imports. The trading community insists on import the moment prices of agriculture produce go just above the MSP. The import policy is harming farmers and farming,” says agriculture analyst Deepak Chavan.
Farmers in Marathwada and Vidarbha region, who grow tur, were expecting prices around ₹8,500-8,700 per quintal for tur against the MSP of ₹6,000. But, they are irked with the government deciding to extend the deadline for allowing tur imports.
“Farmers were expecting to recover losses incurred in cotton and soyabean by selling tur at higher prices. But the government extended the permission for tur import till December 2020. It led to raw tur in the market falling by over ₹2,000 per quintal. How can farmers double their income if the government creates hurdles to achieve it?,” asks farmer P P Pawar.
Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Narendra Singh Tomar told the Lok Sabha on Tuesday that India’s agricultural imports were mainly dominated by vegetable oils, pulses, cashew nuts, fresh fruits and spices. “To reduce dependency on imported pulses and edible oils, government has been implementing various programmes such as National Food Security Mission (NFSM) and NFSM-Oilseeds and Oil Palm, to improve the production of pulses and essential edible oils in the country. Besides, under Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY), funds are being provided to states for improving the production of pulses,” Tomar told the House.
He said that with a view to ensure self-sufficiency in agriculture, the government was also implementing several flagship schemes.
“In October last year, the average onion price at Lasalgaon had touched ₹5,000 per quintal as the supply of good quality onion dipped. But prices came down drastically after centre’s intervention to import onion and ban export. The modal price of red onion immediately came down to ₹1,800 per quintal in Lasalgaon while the price of summer onion dropped to ₹1,400 per quintal. The drop continued for months,” says Bharat Dighole, President, and Maharashtra State Onion Grower’s Association. He said that the government’s policies and actual actions are contradictory and are harming farmers in a big way.