For gram farmers in Maharashtra, the realisation of a Minimum Support Price (MSP) for their produce remains a distant dream as the state government is drawing a low figure in the ongoing procurement of the pulse. Maharashtra has recorded the lowest procurement of chana in the country, under the central government's Price Support Scheme (PSS). Chana is an important rabi crop in both Vidarbha and Marathwada. This marks the second year in which chana growers have failed to sell their produce at the government-announced Minimum Selling Price (MSP) of Rs 4,620 per quintal. In most markets in the state, gram is being traded at around Rs 4,300 to Rs 4,400 per quintal. Incidentally, all 17 seats in both regions will complete their voting on Thursday.
In view of the lower-than-MSP prices, the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation (NAFED) had announced the procurement of 2.5 lakh tonnes of the commodity in the state. Three agencies - the Vidarbha Cooperative Marketing Federation, the Maharashtra Cooperative Marketing Federation(MarkFed) and the MahaFPC - have joined in to ensure procurement at the ground level.
Data released by NAFED shows that till April 15, the state has seen the procurement of 1,671.15 tonne of gram from 1,560 farmers. MahaFPC, the umbrella organisation of Farmers Producers Companies (FPC), has so far reported the lowest procurement with 21 farmers selling 26.25 tonne in the three centres they run.
The procurement program is seen as having more success in other states when compared to Maharashtra. Telangana has seen the best procurement, with government agencies buying 34,500 tonne of gram from 21,833 farmers.
Similarly, Rajasthan (6,870 tonne from 3,598 farmers) and Madhya Pradesh (2,357.52 tonne from 1,209 farmers) have clocked better figures than Maharashtra.
Rajesh Bilala, secretary of the Dal millers association in Akola, said the narrowing of the gap between MSP and prevalent market prices has weaned farmers away from government-run procurement centres. "Also, farmers are wary of selling their produce in these centres given the delay in payment," he said.
Many traders are not optimistic about gram's current price reaching closer to its MSP. Low demand coupled with record government stocks has ruled out any chances of price rise almost entirely. Last season, NAFED had effected procurement of more than 27 lakh tonne of gram, of which around 16 lakh tonne still remains unsold.
Yogesh Mhashe, managing director of MarkFed, did not respond to calls. However, Yogesh Thorat, the managing director of MahaFPC, affirmed that farmers are wary of selling their produce in government centres due to delays in payments. "Also, due to the ongoing elections, most revenue officials who are responsible for doing the necessary paperwork to enable farmers to register for government procurement are not available," he said.