Farm activists hail hike in support price for cotton

September 7th, 2008 - 7:38 pm ICT by IANS  

Nagpur, Sep 7 (IANS) Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS), a people’s movement group fighting for remunerative prices for agricultural produce, has hailed the government decision to raise the minimum support price (MSP) for cotton in the up-coming procurement year beginning next month. “It’s a good step to help the dying cotton farmers,” said VJAS president Kishor Tiwari, appealing to the state government to open all 516 procurement centres of the Maharashtra State Cotton Marketing Federation on time to fully reach the benefit to the cultivators.

The central government issued a notification Sep 1 regarding a hike of 33-40 percent in the MSP, saying it was necessary in view of the increased input costs and an overall rise in cotton prices. This was precisely what farmers had been persistently demanding over the last three years, Tiwari told IANS.

The MSP of medium staple cotton, which includes the popular Shankar variety, has been raised to Rs.2,500 per quintal while that of long staple fibre has been raised to Rs.3,000. The corresponding MSP for the two varieties last year was Rs.1,800 and Rs.2,250.

The highest support price under the state governments run by the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party front and the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party alliance under the aegis of the monopoly cotton procurement scheme was Rs.2,500.

The scheme was all but wound up two years ago limiting the role of the federation to that of a competing player in the market with private traders.

With the federation operating only a small number of procurement centres, traders generally offering lower prices than the MSP and the global market prices of cotton falling during the 2005-2007 recession, the cultivators were left high and dry - many of them committed suicide.

The market prices went up to Rs.3,000 a quintal last year and are likely to rule higher this year, a key factor explaining the MSP hike, another reason being the forthcoming general elections.

Pointing to these factors, farm activist Vijay Jawandhiya has demanded the government undertake steps to maintain the MSP at this level in the years to come even if the market prices fall.

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