Devendra Fadnavis: States opposed to Centre’s proposal to remove agriculture goods from Essential CommoditiesAct

CM Devendra Fadnavis, along with Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar (left) and NITI Aayog member Ramesh Chand (right), briefs media on Friday. (Express photo: Prashant Nadkar)

Almost all member states are opposed to the NITI Aayog s proposal to completely remove agriculture commodities from the Essential Commodities Act, however, many are in favour of relaxation in stock restrictions for agriculture goods, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said on Friday.

Fadnavis who heads a high-powered committee of chief ministers, which is discussing reforms for raising farmers income and transformation of agriculture said, A majority of the states hold the view that intervention was necessary in extreme conditions.

Contending that removing stocking limits from agriculture commodities would lead to organised trading and bring about more capital investment into the trade, NITI Aayog, the federal policy think-tank, had pitched for a withdrawal of agriculture goods from the Act s ambit.

Following the opposition, the NITI Aayog recommended cutting down on the discretionary powers of the states and the Centre to impose stocking limits.

The NITI Aayog has suggested that stock restrictions should be imposed in cases where the (retail) price escalation of a commodity has shot up by over 50 per cent its normal rate, said Fadnavis.

The contentious proposal was discussed at the committee meeting in Mumbai on Friday. Besides Fadnavis, Madhya Pradesh CM Kamal Nath, Gujarat CM Vijay Rupani, Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar were also present at the meeting, while Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar took part in the deliberations via video conferencing. While CMs of Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha and Karnataka, who are also members of the committee, were not present, most had sent their representatives to participate in the discussions.

Fadnavis said that an opinion has been sought from the states over the NITI Aayog s recommendation of not imposing stocking restrictions where price escalations were below 50 per cent. Some farmer welfare organisations too have been demanding withdrawal of such stocking limits.

Meanwhile, the Centre has also re-initiated deliberations with states over allowing cultivation of genetically modified crops as a tool to boost productions. The move comes at a time when the Haryana government has begun a crackdown on illegal cultivation of genetically modified brinjal in the state. In fact, insect-resistant (Bt) cotton and Bt brinjal have been at the heart of the debate over the cultivation of genetically modified crops for several years.

While Maharashtra had briefly lifted the ban on Bt cotton in 2013, it was reinstated following opposition in 2015. GM crops are banned in all states.

We have sought the opinions of the states. This would be submitted in the next meeting, said Fadnavis. The attempt is to evolve consensus over whether GM crops should be permitted or otherwise, or whether they can be permitted in a controlled environment.

Deliberations were also held on the Centre s draft legislation on Agriculture Produce and Livestock Marketing (Promotion & Facilitation) Act, 2017, circulated by the Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare to the states. Consultations are directed towards making suitable changes to improve the ability of the agriculture economy s response to market fluctuations. Changes to the provisions for National Agriculture Markets and Gramin Agriculture Market initiatives, to make them more stakeholder friendly, were also discussed. States have also been asked to recommend measures to increase food processing and exports, said Fadnavis. The committee is expected to submit its report by October end.