A new problem of surplus: Protein in excess


In mid-December, Anand Pawar decided to register the standing tur (pigeon-pea) on 10 out of his 50-acre holding with the Maharashtra State Cooperative Marketing Federation’s purchase centre at Latur, he was quite hopeful of realising the government’s minimum support price (MSP) of Rs. 5,450 per quintal for the standing crop. At the time of registration, this farmer from Harangul Khurd village of Latur taluka was even promised he would “soon” receive an SMS, specifying the date and time for him to proceed to make the sale at the centre.
The SMS never came and, more than five months later, Pawar is still stuck with the 65 quintals of tur he harvested in mid-January. And he deeply regrets not having sold his crop at the right time then at the prevailing market rate of Rs. 4,200-4,250 per quintal.
Tur is currently trading in the Latur market yard at Rs. 3,550-3,600 per quintal. “Why promise something you did not intend to deliver? What option do I have other than sell at today’s going price? I need the money for my next crop, with the monsoon rains just 2-3 weeks away,” says Pawar, whose sole consolation is from the soyabean on his balance 40 acres. While it also sold initially below the MSP of R.s 3,050 per quintal — at Rs 2,550-2,600 in November and Rs 2,800-2,900 in December — prices rose significantly thereafter. Pawar could fetch Rs 3,800-3,900 per quintal for his last lot of soyabean sold in early-April.
Pawar is a relatively better-off farmer, who was able to make some money by not selling his entire soyabean crop during the peak marketing season of November-December. But 2017-18 has been an unmitigated disaster even for him, when it comes to pulses. For growers of tur, urad (black gram), moong (green gram), chana (chickpea) and masur (lentil), this is a year they would simply not want to remember. The curse of low realisations for farmers — ironically, in a crop where India has been perpetually import-dependent — comes despite government agencies undertaking record procurement during the last two years.
In the current year, procurement, which is ongoing, is set to further double. NAFED, the only government agency now procuring under the so-called Price Support Scheme (PSS), has till now bought 14.59 lt of chana, 8.58 lt of tur, 2.95 lt of moong, 2.03 lt of urad and 1.36 lt of masoor. That adds up to around 29.50 lt. The final figure could well cross 30 lt — unprecedented as far as pulses go.
But unlike for wheat and paddy — for which there are established systems that have stood the test of time — the actual process of procurement has been far from smooth in the case of pulses. In states such as Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, farmers wanting to sell are required to register themselves first at the procurement centres of their areas. As part of this process, they have to mention the area planted under a particular crop, while providing proof of land ownership (copy of 7/12 revenue extract) and also their Aadhaar identification and bank account numbers. Once registration happens, the farmers are supposed to get an SMS intimation of the date for bringing their produce, the idea being to avoid overcrowding at the procurement centres. Payments, too, are to be credited directly into their bank accounts within 48 hours of the sale taking place.
However, things haven’t quite worked that way on the ground.


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