New Delhi: The government on Monday asserted that no one would be allowed to exploit farmers and made it clear that it has the right and powers to regulate prices of items like cotton “whenever required”.
“We will continue to regulate prices of seeds and other products whenever required,” Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Minister Radha Mohan Singh said addressing a kharif conference here.
The observations are significant as the central government for the first time recently fixed a uniform price of Rs.800 per packet for Bt cotton seed.
Radha Mohan Singh on March 9 said there was “no uniformity” in pricing of Bt cotton seeds across the country and the government therefore intervened and issued a Cotton Seed Price (Control) Order to fix a uniform price of Bt cotton seed in 2015 “for the benefit of farmers”.
As a matter of policy, the government is, however, not against Bt cotton or GM crops even as both the BJP’s election manifesto in 2014 and the Rashtriya Sawemsewak Sangh (RSS) has from time to time said GM food will not be allowed without full scientific evaluation.
Government sources also maintained on Monday that just owing to patent rights and “knowledge”, big companies and MNCs cannot be allowed to “charge whatever price because they have the know how”.
In this context, the agriculture minister said the government was committed to help farmers increase their income “by reducing their marketing expenditure”.
“A national agriculture market is being set up for electronic trading. In this programme, 585 agriculture mandis of India will be connected to each other. The farmers will get maximum price of their crops,” Radha Mohan Singh said, adding that foreign investment will also be encouraged on this.
The efforts would minimise the “interference of mediators to a greater extent”, he said.
The agriculture minister also said the government was taking concrete steps to remove debt problems of farmers.
The government has increased agricultural credit target Rs.9 lakh crore for the year 2016-17 to bring the farmers within institutional fold, he added.
Concerned that whitefly and bollworm attack could harm Bt cotton crop yields, the central government last week said henceforth it would promote native cotton varieties in states like Punjab, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh.
The decision to encourage cultivation of indigenous cotton was taken by Radha Mohan Singh after he and ministry officials held a detailed meeting here.