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Wheat import not to affect procurement targets: Sharad Pawar

Written by: Staff
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New Delhi, Mar 3 (UNI) Seeking to allay fears of Rajya Sabha members over the impact of wheat import on farmers, the Government today said the import will not affect the prices of indigenously produced grain and there will be no reduction in procurement targets.

''The wheat has been imported not because the Government thought there was any shortage of foodgrains at present, but to maintain a reserve for any contingency like drought etc,'' Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar told the House, replying to supplementaries during the Question Hour.

Mr Pawar said the Food Corporation of India was fully prepared to purchase wheat at a Minimum Support Price (MSP).

Earlier, some members, including Mr Sharad Yadav (JD-U) and Ms Brinda Karat (CPI-M), had expressed fear that the prices of wheat will fall in April when imported wheat arrived in the market, allowing middlemen to come into play, as a result of which farmers will suffer great losses.

The Minister said the government was trying its best to give farmers more choice to sell their produce at a more remunerative price and the decision to amend the Agricultural Produce Marketing Act(APMC) was aimed in that direction.

At present, he said, the marketing of wheat along with other notified commodities is regulated under the APMC by dividing the state under market areas managed by Market Committees. As a result, the farmer is restricted from entering into direct contract with any bulk buyer since the produce is required to be canalised through regulated markets. The monopoly of regulated market has enabled the intermediaries to take disproportionate share of the prices paid by consumers.

''Now in view of the changes in the market all over the world, we have decided to end the APMC monopoly to provide alternative markets to farmers,'' the Minister said, adding that the Ministry was proactively encouraging state governments to promote new competitive markets in private sector and allow direct marketing by suitably amending the APMC Act.

He dismissed the fear expressed by Ms Karat that procurement targets might be reduced in the name of deregulation of market.

UNI NAZ MSJ ND1243

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