The substantial hike in the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for bajra or pearl millet announced by the union government in July was seen as a key measure by the ruling BJP to win over farmers in election-bound Rajasthan and also parts of Madhya Pradesh. But the delay in government procurement of the grain, a staple in Rajasthan that votes to elect a new government on December 7, has dampened the spirits of the farmers as they are forced to sell their produce at a lower price in the open market.
This may not augur well for the BJP, which is trying to buck the decades-old trend of the ruling party not getting voted back to power in Rajasthan.
In July, the union government had raised the minimum support price of bajra to Rs 1,950 per quintal. The hike of Rs 525 per quintal was seen as substantial and the move was also aimed at encouraging farmers to cultivate the climate resilient coarse cereals that require less water.
The hike, some analysts had said, would help farmers recover more than half of their production cost.
Two months on, farmers say the ground reality is completely different.
Prabhu Narayan, a farmer from Kaalwaad area in Jaipur, said, "About 70 to 80 per cent of the bajra produced in the state has already reached the market, but not even a sack of grain is bought for more than Rs 1,300. The government is not buying and the farmer who brings the grain to the market has no choice but to sell it at whatever price he gets".
With the government going slow on the procurement of bajra, farmers are left with no choice but to go for open auctions in the market. The grain traders bid for the grain much lower than the minimum support price. In markets across the state, farmers are selling the cereal at prices between Rs 1200 and Rs 1350 per quintal.
Government procurement is a lengthy process and the rule that it cannot buy more than 25 per cent of the total produce has hit the farmers.
Considering Rajasthan produces 36 to 37 lakh metric tonnes of bajra per season, 75 per cent of it will have to be sold in the open market
"Those farmers who don't have any other option are selling their produce in the open market. Those who can hold on to their stocks are waiting for the Minimum Support Price. But they too will have to sell their stocks around Diwali," said Sardar Yadav, a farmer from Sirsi near Jaipur who has cultivated 12 quintals bajra.
Rajasthan Agriculture Minister Prabhu Lal Saini told NDTV that various government agencies dealing with the procurement process are discussing the matter and the procurement will begin soon.
"The nodal agency for procurement is the Food Corporation of India and the Food and Civil Supplies Department, both agencies of the union government. Our officials held two rounds of talks with the officials of these agencies and we are hopeful the procurement will begin soon," the minister said.
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