Govt hikes MSP of rice by Rs 40
New Delhi, Aug 24: Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar today announced a hike in the Minimum Support Price (MSP) of rice from Rs 610 per quintal to Rs 650 per quintal and gave a categorical assurance that the MSP for wheat will also be increased at an appropriate time.
Replying to the debate in the Lok Sabha late in the night on 'Farmers' Suicides'. Mr Pawar said earlier the government had announced an increase in MSP of rice from Rs 600 to Rs 610, but said the new MSP would be Rs 650 per quintal.
''The MSP for wheat would be increased at a suitable time as now was the season for sowing,'' he said.
Mr Pawar, in his reply, which exceeded an hour to a debate whch lasted for more than nine hours, enumerated the various measures taken by the government to improve the condition of the farmers and prevent their suicides.
The Minister said he was unhappy that the country was compelled to import wheat, which had created a huge hue and cry, but said this had been done in the interest of the absolute poor. He, however, gave an assurance that next year the government will make all-out efforts to increase domestic supply to minimise imports.
Mr Pawar said efforts should be made not to put the burden of the Public Distribution System, which was here to stay, on the farmer and while procuring wheat for this purpose the government must give the agriculturists market price.
He said three states -- Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh -- would announce a package in a fornight for the farmers on the same lines as Maharashtra.
Besides, a package would also be announced by the government for revival of co-operative institutions to improve the lot of the farming community.
Mr Pawar regretted the death of farmers by committing suicides and said the basic cause of this were the poor returns from agriculture. He said while the suicide by farmers had been continuing since 1950, it was the UPA government which had taken measures to bring their incidence down.
The strategy that the government would adopt to improve the profitability of the agricultural sector would include increasing creadit to farmers, ensuring a lower rate of interest, improve the marketability of agricultural produce and exten the scope of irrigation.
He said of the nearly one lakh suicides each year, 14 to 15 per cent of the suicdes were by farmers and one of the main reason for this was their indebtedness.
Mr Pawar gave a clarion call to the state governments to go in for production of wheat and rice and not let just three states bear such a burden-- Punjab, Haryana and western parts of Uttar Pradesh.