Lok Satta

Friday, 15 October 2010 13:32

Lok Satta moots united fight to save farmers

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The Lok Satta Party has called for an all-party conference on October 16 to organize a united fight against anti-farmer policies of State and Union Governments.

Announcing this at a media conference here today, Lok Satta Party President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan pointed out that the Union Government was harming farmers’ interests by not permitting export of rice and allowing duty-free import of palm oil, while the State Government looked on helplessly.

Dr. JP reeled off facts and figures to depict the grim situation the farmers are facing on the eve of the kharif paddy harvest. India as of today has a buffer stock of 46 million tons of rice and paddy. Since FCI’s storage capacity including the leased ones is only 27.3 million tons, it is forced to keep the remainder under open storage with the attendant risk of damage by rains and rodents. The stipulated buffer storage for the country in July is 27 million tons and in October 16 million tons. The country is about to reap a bumper rice harvest because of the steep increase in acreage following abundant rains. In Andhra Pradesh, for instance, the FCI commands a storage capacity of 3.8 million tons, against the rice procurement target of 6.7 million tons.

With warehouses overflowing even before the harvest, paddy prices are heading for a crash, Dr. JP warned and asked the Union Government to permit rice exports immediately to save the farmer. With the rice price ruling between Rs.70 and Rs.90 a kg in international markets, Indian farmers stand to gain if the Government permits rice exports.

Dr. JP said the Government need not be apprehensive of food grain exports triggering inflation because of the imminent record harvest. In addition, the Government has more than adequate stocks for release into the public distribution system to check any price rice.

Dr. JP said that the Union Government proposed review in January would not help the farmer as he will have already sold away his kharif production. If at all it permits rice exports then, it is only traders who benefit. If the kharif rice output turns out to be 80 million tons as estimated, a Rs.10 per kg higher price to the farmer because of exports translates into tens of thousands of crores of higher returns to farmers.

Dr. JP recalled that the Government of India justified India joining the World Trade Organization in the 1990s contending it would benefit Indian farming. India, because of its low cost of production, could export its agricultural produce and reap profits. Far from honoring the commitments it made to farmers then, the Government is now punishing farmers by denying rice exports.

He also explained how the Government of India permitted duty-free import of palm oil from countries like Malaysia and Indonesia where its cost of production is low and is hurting the interests of local palm growers. Both the Union and State Governments have failed to ensure even payment of the promised procurement price to palm growers.

Dr. JP demanded that the Union Government levy import duty on palm oil and use the proceeds to ensure a remunerative price to farmers and supply palm oil through the public distribution system on subsidy.

Dr. JP said Andhra Pradesh has been denied justice in plans to augment food grain storage capacity in the country. Of the additional 12.8 million tons of storage capacity, now proposed to be created, Andhra Pradesh will get only one lakh tons of storage capacity. Considering that Andhra Pradesh is a heavy contributor of rice to the Central pool, it should get an additional storage capacity of at least 2.5 million tons.

A.P Farmers' Federation President Mr. Yerneni Nagendranath, Secretary Mr. Nagi Reddy, Lok Satta Party State Working President DVVS Varma, Katari Srinivasa Rao and P.Bhaskara Rao also took part in the media conference.