KOCHI: The Union budget has given a big thrust to agriculture and the allied agri-tech sector with the Centre announcing a minimum support price (MSP) for all agriculture produce to be fixed at a level to ensure the farmer a minimum return of 1.5 times over the production cost. However, the state is anxious to see how the MSP mechanism will work and whether Kerala’s farmers will benefit from the move.
Agriculture Minister VS Sunil Kumar said around 65 per cent of the agriculture income in Kerala is from cash crops, which will not come under the ambit of Kharif crops. And it is not clear whether cash crops and other farm produce in Kerala will benefit from the MSP move. Further, the cost-sharing agreement between the Centre and the state for various agriculture and farmer welfare projects is 60:40.
Hence, the contribution will be a burden for a state like Kerala, he said. No special packages were announced for cash crops, so the budget will not bring any immediate cheer to Kerala’s farmers, he said.
KAU director of research P Indira Devi said raising the MSP will not benefit Kerala farmers much as the MSP of rice is already very high in the state. Increasing the MSP will reduce the state government’s share. Other crops being cultivated in Kerala will not benefit from the move as those crops can’t be called Kharif crops, she said.
Overall, the budget is a well-conceived one and gives a much-needed thrust to the agriculture sector and farmer producer companies, said T V Gopinath, agro-entrepreneur and director of Mysuru-based Raitha Mitra Farmers Producer Co Ltd and the father of Gita Gopinath, economic adviser to the Chief Minister. For a consumer state like Kerala, there is not much to expect from the budget with a national vision as the state’s contribution to the agriculture sector of the country is peanuts, he said.
Operation Green, supported by an effort to link farmers to markets for better price realisation, is a welcome measure. However, the concern will be the experience of eNAM and APMC markets linkages in the past, said Ravi Sreedharan, founder of Indian School of Development Management.