NAGPUR: Even as the chief minister is busy ironing out hassles in full roll-out of the loan waiver for farmers in the state, farm activists on Wednesday raised a fresh demand for bonus payment of at least Rs500 per quintal to cotton growers.
The demand comes in the wake of poll-bound Gujarat announcing a payout of Rs500 per quintal to farmers over and above the minimum support price (MSP) of Rs4,320. Farmers in that state can now earn Rs4,820 per quintal.
In contrast, private traders who have started buying in open market in Vidarbha through APMCs are offering around Rs3,500, far less than the MSP. Farmers in dire need of cash are selling in distress.
Interestingly, traders from Gujarat are flocking to Maharashtra to buy cotton at less than Rs4,000 per quintal so that they could sell it back home in government-run procurement centres at Rs4,820.
The demand for bonus payment in Maharashtra may escalate with political traction as farmers' leaders claim that production cost in state is very high and only a price of Rs6000 per quintal could leave something on the table for the cultivators.
"I would say a bonus of Rs1,500 on cotton and Rs1,000 on soyabean MSP would be in order, if the state is serious about protecting farmers from suffering from huge losses. If it fails to pay this, the whole purpose of providing loan waiver would also be defeated as farmers once again would end up in debts," said Vijay Jawandhiya, a farmers' leader from Wardha.
Soyabean is also being bought by private traders at Rs2,300 or less while the MSP is Rs3,050. The MSP is fixed by the Centre, but states can pay extra to bail out distressed farmers.
Official sources said that 56 procurement centres of the Cotton Corporation of India, which is the agency for state cotton federation, have opened in Vidarbha on Wednesday. As a result, private traders, at least in Adilabad in Telangana bordering Yavatmal district, were offering a price of Rs4,200.
Farm activist and chairman of Vasantrao Naik Shektari Swavalamban Mission Kishore Tiwari also supported the demand for payment of at least Rs500 per quintal to cotton growers. "Cotton crop has already suffered damage because of pest attack and there is fresh stress because of deaths due to pesticide sprays. In such hostile conditions, the government should be generous to help farmers," said Tiwari who has urged chief minister to consider the demand for bonus payment to cotton growers.
In a nutshell
* Seen as a political demand, activists want a bonus over MSP to cotton growers to offset losses
* Rs500 a quintal bonus announced couple of days ago in Gujarat, which is going to polls in December
* Cotton crop has partially been damaged by bollworm attacks with Bt seeds failing to protect it
* Still, the crop is likely to be bumper as area of cultivation has increased from last year's 35 lakh to around 50 lakh hectares this time
* State government already struggling to find funds and tackling hassles in roll out of farm loan waiver