(Eds: Adds details) Chennai, Oct 6 (PTI) Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday made a veiled attack on Congress vis-a- vis the new farm legislations, saying those who did not even provide Minimum Support Price (MSP) for commodities other than paddy and wheat were now raising 'unreasonable' apprehensions.
Stoutly defending the new farm laws of the Centre, she said these legislations came under the ambit of the union government and it covered inter-state farm trade.
On apprehensions that MSP may be scrapped by the government, she said: 'I find that absolutely unreasonable to keep speculating on it and say that this is the concern of the farmer.' Addressing a press conference here, the minister said: 'MSP is there,it was there and it shall continue to be there.' Under 'certain other governments' the focus was only on giving and increasing MSP for paddy and wheat and they did not 'bother' about other crops, she said.
Though 20-23 items were covered under the MSP regime, 'those who gave' support price only for paddy and wheat and not for other crops were today crying foul, raising apprehensions that the government may do away with the system of MSP and it was surprising, she said, in an apparent reference to Congress and others protesting against the Centre's measures.
Only after the BJP took over the reins of power in 2014, the MSP was extended to other crops beyond wheat and paddy by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Though approximately 23-24 lakh tonnes of pulses were needed, only about 16 lakh tonnes were produced and the remaining was imported, she said, adding MSP was given to other crops as well to reverse such a scenario by the NDA government.
The Congress and DMK are among the parties that have been insisting that the government ensure MSP and withdraw the farm legislations.
On some states raising concerns about prices and that MSP should be the 'base price' so that prices do not drop, the minister said enough consultations have been made with stakeholders, including states.
'MSP anyway is infused so much into the process of determining prices.' Fixing the prices that can be adopted in the contract between a farmer and buyer would be based on averages like a year or so on, she said.
The fine print would, however, emerge only with the issuance of regulations and guidelines, she noted.
To a question on a suggestion to set up an 'agricultural market' in each district, she said the Centre was encouraging farmers to sell their produce to any location in the country through the e-National Agricultural Market introduced two years ago by the Centre, that allows farmers to sell their products across states.
During the COVID-19 induced lockdown, around Rs one lakh crore worth of business has been made between states under the e-NAM, the minister said.
'We encourage farmers to set up Farmers Produce Organisations (FPO) to set up storage facilities through the Viability Gap Funding offered by the Centre.
... through this he can sell his products to someone (even) in Mumbai or in Lucknow', she said.
The agricultural market does not necessarily need to be within four walls and a farmer may sell his products digitally too.
The government would fund FPOs which are now available in many villages to build the necessary infrastructure like cold storage.
On the issues faced by sugarcane farmers in the state, she said it was prevalent across the country and the government had been holding consultations on addressing it.
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