Debating India

Pawar defends wheat import

Sunday 6 August 2006

Special Correspondent

``It’s our responsibility to improve buffer stock’’

Increasing the minimum support price for cotton is a very important demand from Vidarbha Vidarbha package aimed at improving irrigation in six affected districts

MUMBAI: Union Minister for Agriculture and president of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) Sharad Pawar on Saturday defended the import of wheat by the country.

Addressing a press conference after the conclusion of the two-day NCP State meet here, he said the country had a total of 92 lakh tonnes wheat as against a requirement of 140 to 150 lakh tonnes.

``It is the government’s responsibility to improve the buffer stock and see there is no shortage. I will not hesitate to import wheat," he said.

The amendments to the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) Act, which allowed producers to directly sell to the market, had resulted in the Food Corporation of India getting less stocks, he said.

Good monsoon

Despite the shortfall in rainfall of about 10 to 11 per cent predicted this year, the monsoon had been exceptionally good and sowing was as per schedule, except for a setback to bajri in Rajasthan.

Referring to the meeting of the NCP, which discussed strategies for the coming elections to local bodies and other issues, he said that it was decided to work together to keep secular forces intact.

The NCP would work with secular parties or if there was a problem, it would go it alone.

He said cotton farmers in Gujarat were doing well with the present minimum support price since their yields were good. In Vidarbha, productivity was very low at about 80 to 90 kg per acre and the farmers were suffering as a result.

Mr. Pawar accepted that increasing the minimum support price for cotton was a very important demand from Vidarbha and the final report of the Commission for Agriculture Costs and Prices (CACP) was with the Cabinet for approval. Productivity in Vidarbha had to be increased.

He said the NCP meeting had taken serious note of the suicides by farmers and decided to work on increasing their self-confidence.

It was not possible to reduce the interest on loans to farmers to four per cent, as the Finance Ministry was not for it, he said. He was confident that the Prime Minister’s package would benefit the farmers.

The Vidarbha package was aimed at improving irrigation and bringing the six affected districts on par with the rest of the state.

Since 1995, suicides among farmers had been 15 to 16 per cent of the total suicides in the country.

The rate of suicides in Kerala and Punjab was going down, he said.

Daughter’s entry

Asked about his daughter Supriya Sule’s entry into the party, Mr. Pawar said that he was happy.

However, it was up to the party to decide how to use her skills and one should not expect an important post at this stage. Asked if she was a candidate for the coming election to the Rajya Sabha, he said the Party Parliamentary Board would decide.

``But my advice would be that she should wait for a while," he said.

New comers have to concentrate on constructive work and behave like disciplined soldiers of the party before building their career, he said.

See online : The Hindu

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