Badal demands Rs 100 per quintal wheat bonus

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Chandigarh, June 6 (UNI) Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to immediately announces a bonus of Rs 100 per quintal on wheat to partly offset the potential loss suffered by farmers for not being allowed to export their marketable surplus.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, Mr Badal said that the need to sustain and increase domestic food grain production levels and boost farmers' morale could never be over-emphasized given the strong possibility that international prices were unlikely to register any significant fall in the next few years.

He assured the Prime Minister that in case the Union Government came forward to assist the state and recognised the contribution of its beleaguered farmers at this juncture, "an equally vigorous and enthusiastic response from the farmers of Punjab would ensure enhanced food grain production to offset the volatility of the international market and to preserve the nation's food and nutrition security".

The Chief Minister reminded Dr Singh that Punjab had once again risen to the nation's call and broken all previous wheat production records. Till date, a record 105 lakh tonnes wheat had been procured in the state.

This record production comes at a most crucial time for the country as serious questions were being raised in public regarding the country's food security following steep escalation in international prices of food grain in general and of wheat in particular, he pointed out in the letter.

The Chief Minister highlighted the importance of sustaining high domestic food grain production at this juncture which could be illustrated through these simple statistics. The country, he said, spent about Rs 8000 crore on import of 73 lakh tonnes wheat during the last two years and the price of wheat had nearly doubled in the international market since then.

Mr Badal stated that in case the country were to import 30 lakh tonnes of wheat in the current year, it would cost the national exchequer around Rs 5800 crore. By ensuring substantially higher procurement of over 30 lakh tonnes this year, Punjab had saved the country this additional cost.

However, in the process, Punjab farmers had lost a possible Rs 4800 crore, the differential of 100 lakh tonnes in the buoyant international market. The international price of wheat was about Rs 15,000 per tonne against the procurement price of Rs 10,000 per tonne," the Chief Minister stated while quoting Government data.

Mr Badal said that it was against this backdrop of high international food grain prices and concomitant need to augment food grain production in the country that he sought to focus the Centre's attention on the urgent need for the Union Government to provide more substantial budgetary support to the state's agricultural infrastructure.

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