By Prabhudatta Mishra
Since the Supreme Court put implementation of the three contentious farm laws in abeyance on January 12, arrivals of several crops in the organised mandis have picked up, according to official data on the Union agriculture ministry’s Agmarknet portal.
Of the ten major kharif crops, mandi arrivals have increased in the case of five – groundnut, bajra, soyabean, arhar and moong – in the range of 3-105% between January 13 and February 15 from the year-ago levels. Mandi arrivals of another three crops – urad, maize and jowar – continued to fall even after the SC’s stay on the laws, but the declines were less sharper than the period in the season before the court’s order.
Of course, two major crops – paddy and cotton – reported further fall in mandi arrivals post the court order, but according to sources in the trade, the procurement of the two crops by the designated government agencies – FCI and CCI respectively – had nearly completed before the court’s intervention. Paddy procurement hit a record level in the summer crop season (up 16%), mainly due to higher purchases (up 31%) in Punjab. In the case of cotton too, government procurement has been robust, including from centres other than the APMC mandis.
While the government brought in the reforms in India’s agriculture marketing through Ordinances in June last year, a visible impact of the move in terms of a fall in mandi arrivals was seen when kharif harvesting season began in October. Pan-India mandi arrivals in the three months to December 31 had dropped 2-51% from the year-ago levels in all the ten kharif crops. Via its order, the apex court not only stayed the implementation of the farm laws but also asked a committee constituted by it to submit its report within two months.
Arrivals of moong in the mandis in Nagaur district of Rajasthan during the one month post the SC order was nearly half of what these were during October-December, the main harvesting period, said Viresh Goyal, a Jaipur-based grain trader.
Farmers were probably hoping for prices to increase and were holding the crops, Goyal said, adding most of the traders continued to buy from mandis in the state. The sharpest increase in mandi arrivals post the SC stay was in the case of moong with a 105% increase on year.
As the pan-India drop in cotton arrivals has been steeper after the SC order, Gujarat is the only state where there has been a reverse trend. Cotton arrivals in Gujarat, which had plummeted 32% during October-December from year-ago level, recorded a 32% increase during January 13-February 15, data show.
“As most of the procurement happened during October-December this year, both by private traders and government agencies compared to last year, farmers now have less stock with themselves,” said Atul Bora, a cotton trader in Sri Ganganagar, Rajasthan.
As farmer unions decided to continue the protest till their key demands are met and refused to appear before the SC-appointed committee, the Centre on January 20 proposed to keep the three laws on hold for up to 18 months and also set up a joint committee to discuss the laws clause by clause. However, during the 11th round of discussion on January 22, the farmer leaders have conveyed their decision not to accept the proposal. Thousands of farmers have been protesting at different entry points of Delhi since November 26 demanding repeal of the three farm laws and a legally guaranteed minimum support price (MSP) mechanism.
Prime minister Narendra Modi has made the government’s stand clear on several occasions, including in both Houses of parliament. During motion of thanks to the President’s address earlier this month, Modi said that while the government is ready for a dialogue with farmers, the decision on agriculture reforms will not be rolled back.