At pre-budget meet, Amarinder told review of MSP policy will adversely impact Punjab economy, farmers

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CM Amarinder Singh meeting the MPs to discuss budget proposals for the next fiscal and other issues pending with the Centre. (Source: Capt Amarinder Singh via Twitter)

Days after the Agriculture Price Commission recommended to the Centre a review of the Minimum Support Price (MSP) policy, Congress MPs from Punjab, at a meeting with Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh, called it a "serious threat" to the state's farmers and urged him to approach Prime Minister Narendra Modi and ask him not to consider any such review.

Amarinder was meeting the MPs to discuss budget proposals for the next fiscal and other issues pending with the Centre. A government statement said the meeting perceived any change in MSP procurement policy will adversely impact Punjab's economy, and expressed the fear that the Centre would limit procurement as the first step towards putting an end to MSP purchase.

It was mentioned that Punjab's godowns were overflowing and 140 lakh metric tonnes of wheat and 95 LMT rice belonging to the central pool are currently stored in the state. Moreover, 70 LMT of wheat is lying in the open, including 16 LMT wheat purchased under relaxed specifications (URS) during RMS 2019-20 and 10 LMT wheat procured in RMS 2018-19. This was despite the fact that the normal shelf life of URS wheat is 6 months while normal wheat stocks stored in the open can be maintained for nine months only.

The average monthly movement of food grains (wheat and rice) from the state by FCI and state procurement agencies has only been 11.7 LMT during the last months, whereas it used to be around 15-16 LMT per month during the previous years. As a result of slow evacuation of food grains, the state is facing an acute space crunch, which will severely impact delivery of rice in coming months and procurement of paddy in the next season.

It was decided that the MPs would press the Centre for immediate evacuation of the central pool food grains from the state, in view of the threat to the quality of stored wheat due to heavy rains and floods in parts of Punjab,.

SYL issue

Meanwhile, briefing MPs on the status of the Sutlej Yamuna Link (SYL) case, the chief minister asked the MPs to push for amendment to Section 12 of the Inter-State River Water Disputes (Amendment) Bill 2019, to protect Punjab's water resources.

Other issues

Among other key issues that came up for discussion during the meeting was Punjab's demand for compensation of Rs 100 per quintal to farmers for zero burning of paddy residue, reduction tax rate for dairy Cooperatives, and exemption of dairy products from free trade negotiations. It was also decided to pursue with the Centre, and in Parliament, Punjab's pending demand for an exemption to the textile sector in the Border and Aspirational Districts under Section 80(1)(b) of Income Tax Act,1961.