Chandigarh, Sept 14 (UNI) Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today demanded a Minimum Support Price of Rs 836 per quintal for the current paddy procurement season and urged the Centre to announce this price immediately as procurement process had already started in Punjab.
Mr Badal made this demand when he called on the Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar at New Delhi this afternoon.
Member of Parliament Sukhbir Singh Badal, who accompanied the Chief Minister, urged the Union Agriculture Minister to get the MSP of wheat announced before the sowing season so as to encourage the farmers to go in for extensive harvest and help the country fight off the scarcity in food grains.
The SAD working president demanded a Minimum Support Price of Rs 1200 per quintal for wheat for the ensuing season. His demand was endorsed by the Chief Minister who felt that instead of squandering foreign exchange on import of wheat at exorbitant prices, the centre should spend the same money on encouraging domestic producers towards a bumper crop.
Mr Pawar assured the Punjab leaders that centre would consider their demand ''most favorably and expeditiously.'' Mr Badal also raised the issue of ''value cut'' imposed by the Central Government on the paddy, procured last year, resulting in a net loss of Rs 40 crore to the farmers of the state. He said there was no justification for this value as the centre had sold the rice at normal price and there was no loss of weight in the delivery of the grain. The Government of India therefore suffered no financial loss on this account.
Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal raised the issue of relaxation of procurement specifications for damaged paddy, adding that the Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana, had recommended a relaxation of up to five per cent whereas the Union Government also allowed three per cent relaxation in the previous years. He said that a 6 per cent damage relaxation should be allowed because of the agro-climatic conditions.
He also wanted the pin-point damage on the delivery of rice to be fixed at 3+1 per cent. The Junior Badal also backed the state Government's demand for a 18 per cent moisture content relaxation for paddy.
The Chief Minister asked Mr Pawar to take up the issue of farming crisis with the Union Government and to announce a one time package to help the beleaguered peasantry of the state.
He said agricultural sector was facing one of the gravest crisis in history and immediate steps were needed to retrieve it and save the farmers. The failure to do so, he said, would result in a dangerous socio-economic imbalance that might threaten the very fabric of social stability.