Nagpur: The Rs.50 per quintal raise in the Minimum Support Prices (MSP) for cotton was labeled as another "jumla" -- mere words -- by a prominent farmers' group on Wednesday.
According to the new MSP for cotton announced on Wednesday, the government will procure long staple cotton at Rs.4,150 per quintal and medium staple cotton at Rs.3,800 per quintal.
Last year, the central government hiked the MSP for cotton by Rs.100 per quintal - from Rs.4,000 to Rs.4,100 for long staple and Rs.3,650 to Rs.3,750 for medium staple per quintal.
The latest announcement raises these minimum prices for both qualities of cotton only by Rs.50 per quintal. A quintal equals 100 kg.
"Prime Minister Narendra Modi before the elections promised that he would give the farmers full cost plus 50 percent extra. By that calculation, today farmers spend Rs.6,000 per quintal on inputs. So, they should have got MSP of Rs.9,000 per quintal," Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti president Kishore Tiwari told IANS.
Terming it as a "jumla", Tiwari said instead of assuaging those affected by the agrarian crises, the new MSP would only worsen it, especially with forecasts of a poor monsoon. Farmers will now wonder what to cultivate in their farmlands, he added.
"Even the farmers in Gujarat, the highest cotton producing state in the country, will have to rethink on cotton with such a low MSP compared to the production costs of average Rs.6,000 per quintal."
"In fact, three years ago, the erstwhile Congress-NCP government recommended cotton MSP of Rs.6,800 per quintal, which was quite fair," Tiwari added.
With 35 million bales - up from 25 million bales in the past five years - and 13.5 million hectares of land under cotton cultivation, including 4.8 million hectares in Maharashtra - India now ranks among the top three global producers of this cash crop with China and the US.
"However, it is due to the faulty pricing mechanism of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices that is driving farmers to suicide... With the new MSP announced today, we fear the situation may only worsen," said Tiwari.
Last year, China stopped importing Indian cotton, hitting Indian farmers hard with resultant surpluses and sharp decline in the market prices, and consequently fuelled the agrarian crisis in the country, especially in the big cotton producers states like Gujarat and Maharashtra, he added.
Tiwari said of the total of 1,240 farmers who committed suicides in Maharashtra in 2015, a majority were cotton growers and despite the new MSP declared on Wednesday, the suicide trend may continue unabated.