How A State-Induced Dal Glut May Have Sparked Maharashtra Farmer Protests

Experts said the process of dal procurement was far from smooth.There are several instances where the farmers had to sell the dal to private traders for much less than the government price.

43 Shares
EMAIL
PRINT
COMMENTS
How A State-Induced Dal Glut May Have Sparked Maharashtra Farmer Protests

Click to Play

Acute drought reduced Maharashtra's tur dal production to 4.4 lakh tonnes in 2015.

Beed, Maharashtra:  In Maharashtra, protests by farmers have entered their eleventh day.  

The dominant image is of farmers dumping excess dairy and vegetables on to the roads, angered, they say, at the lack of a fair price. 

But the spark for the protests may have been lit several months ago, with Maharashtra's handling of a bumper dal crop. 

The state is one of the major producers of tur dal. But acute drought reduced Maharashtra's production to 4.4 lakh tonnes in 2015. 
                 
The next year, the government actively promoted tur cultivation, setting a support price of Rs 5,050 per quintal.   

In Antaron Pimpri, a village in Maharashtra's Beed district, we met a government's agricultural officer who explained the persuasive message relayed to farmers last year.  

"We told farmers to produce pulses", he said. "The area under dal cultivation in Antaron Pimpri village was 10 hectares in 2015.  In 2016, it went up to 20 hectares. We also told them about the very generous support price."

This promotion led to a massive spike in tur dal production, jumping 5 times to 20.3 lakh tonnes in 2016, government figures show.  

As tur flooded the market, the state government claims they acted decisively, setting up 316 collection centres, and procuring nearly 6.2 lakh tonnes, roughly a third of this bumper crop. 

Milind Murugkar, a policy researcher and activist based in Nashik said that the process of procurement was far from smooth. "The government had no preparation at all. In fact the Chief Economic Adviser had advised the government to make preparations on war footing, so that the farmers are not forced to sell at below the government rate, but there was no such kind of arrangement."       

We came across several instances of farmers who had sold the dal to a private trader for much less than the government price. 

The reason: because the government took time to begin its purchases, and because its payments were delayed. 
    
"I sold tur to a private trader and got Rs. 3,000 per quintal", said one farmer. "I needed to pay hospital bills and needed cash in hand," he said. 

Farmers who sold it to the government are still waiting for their money, almost 2 months later.

Outside the procurement centre of the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation (NAFED) in Beed, we met farmers who had sold their tur crop to the government in April, but have still not been paid. 

An official of NAFED, the government's main buying agency for agricultural produce, clarified that farmers only get paid only when the dal is registered as having arrived at government godowns. 

We visited a NAFED procurement centre in Beed district to find it was filled with sacks of tur dal. NAFED officials had no explanation for why the dal had not been transported onwards, to government warehouses. 

"The unrest was there," said Mr Murugkar. "The unrest was building up."

................................ Advertisement ................................

................................ Advertisement ................................

................................ Advertisement ................................