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States given more flexibility on PM-Aasha plan

Centre has asked the state governments to decide on the timing to start procurement of rabi-grown pulses and oilseeds under the PM-Aasha scheme after the lockdown, and also permitted farmers to sell higher quantities of crops to the government agencies
after raising the daily limit by 60%.

In a letter to all the state governments, the Union agriculture ministry said states will take their decision on commencement of procurement of oilseeds and pulses and it would continue for 90 days from the date of start. The letter also said each farmer can sell maximum 40 quintal a day now, against the earlier daily limit of 25 quintal.

Procurement of some rabi oilseeds and pulses actually started by notified agency Nafed from February 15 due to early arrival of crops in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. However, due to the corona outbreak, the process discontinued where it had started, and could not begin where it was scheduled for, officials said. Nafed has been able to buy a little over 1 lakh tonne so far out of about 49 lakh tonne sanctioned.

“Since prices of urad and moong in Tamil Nadu and groundnut in Telangana were higher until lockdown, there was no procurement. For other crops, arrivals were also low since the government appealed for social distancing,” an agriculture ministry official said. Farmer organisations have demanded immediate procurement of all crops in which MSPs are announced.

The All India Kisan Sanghrash Coordination Committee, an umbrella body of 250 organisations, on Thursday sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s intervention to ensure MSPs to farmers. In a letter to Modi, it has said farmers are being compelled to sell wheat at Rs 1,400-1,700/quintal, against the MSP of Rs 1,925. It has also asked the government to issue direction to private traders not to purchase crops below their MSPs. For horticulture crops also, MSPs should be announced and implemented, it said.

Assured price deficiency support to farmers under the much-touted PM-Aasha scheme, announced in September 2018, has made little changes to the amount of pulses and oilseeds procured by the government. As on March 31, national-level procurer Nafed purchased just 13 lakh tonne of kharif 2019 produce, or 28% of the quantity sanctioned for procurement, at a cost of about Rs 7,000 crore.

Out of Rs 1,400 crore allocated under PM-Aasha during FY19, the government could not spend any amount. During FY20, out of Rs 1,500 crore budgeted, only Rs 321 crore was spent, which resulted in substantial reduction in allocation to Rs 500 crore for FY21. The Centre reimburses the entire losses to Nafed while selling oilseeds and pulses in the open market.

The Centre buys 25% of the production in a state under PM-Aasha and raises the quantity up to 40% in exceptional circumstances when prices remain depressed. While PM-Aasha also comprises a price deficiency support scheme that doesn’t involve physical procurement of the produce, it hasn’t picked up anywhere except in Madhya Pradesh, where too it has been discontinued now.

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