May 3: This year, the government announced the support price of wheat after the farmers sold their produce at a cheaper price. The government fixes the support price of crops each year to prevent them from being the victim of inconsistent prices set by businessmen and traders.
The farmers were compelled to sell their produce like wheat, paddy, sugarcane, etc. at the rates fixed by the traders and businessmen due to the delay on part of the government in fixing the minimum support price.
Harvesting of wheat has just started in the hill districts. Meanwhile, farmers in the Terai region have already finished harvesting wheat by mid-April.
Farmers cannot store wheat for a long period as they have to manage fertilizer and seeds for the next cycle of crops. This is why they try to sell the crop as soon as possible after harvesting. However, due to the government’s delay in fixing the support price in time, the farmers were unable to take advantage of the support price.
The government makes purchases of wheat from the districts of Terai through its own food management and trading companies at a certain price. For the current fiscal year, most of the farmers in Banke, Bardiya, Kailali, Kanchanpur, Dang, Rupandehi, Bara, Parsa and Janakpur districts have already sold wheat at a loss of Rs 400 per quintal compared to the support price fixed by the government.
The cabinet meeting held last Thursday fixed the minimum support price of wheat at Rs 3,165 per quintal.
According to Agni Aryal, coordinator of Rajapur Paddy Super Zone in Bardiya, more than 80 percent farmers of Bardiya have already sold wheat to local traders at the rate of Rs 2800 per quintal. He said that except for some big farmers, the rest of the farmers could not store wheat for a long time as they needed to manage fertilizer and seeds in time for planting the next lot of crop.
Aryal claims that the state-owned food companies will now buy the same wheat that was sold by the farmers to the traders at a price that is little less than the support price fixed by the government. He claimed that even in the past, government employees used to collude with the traders in this way.
About 50 percent farmers of Janakpur have already sold wheat at Rs 2,750 to Rs 2,800 per quintal. Radhesh Yadav, a representative farmer from Janakpur said, “We already sold the wheat. We do not know for whom the government has fixed the support price. If the support price is fixed for real farmers, it should be done at the time of planting the crop itself.”
According to rules, the government needs to determine the support price before planting. However, Uddhav Adhikari, coordinator of the Agriculture Campaign for Food says that farmers suffer every year due to the violation of rules by the government itself.
Adhikari remarked that the situation to sell products below the support price set by the government is shameful.
Officials express that the concerned authorities should monitor the situation to end this practice. Adhikari said, “Looking at the government's activities, it looks like the farmers are being insulted and the traders are being favored.”
Secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development Govinda Prasad Sharma admitted that the farmers are greatly affected by the delay in fixing the support price of wheat.
According to him, the process of fixing the support price takes a long time since the Ministry of Agriculture sends the recommendation to the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supply which again needs to wait for the decision of the Council of Ministers to approve it. He remarked that such a problem will not arise if the government adopts a policy of fixing prices before planting crops.
Hindrances for Food Management Company to purchase wheat
The Food Management and Trading Company Limited is set to purchase 5,000 metric tons of wheat worth Rs 160 million this year. However, in the districts of Terai, the purchase of crops is likely to be affected as farmers have already sold wheat.
The company failed to meet its purchase target even under normal circumstances. It is estimated that the purchase will be affected heavily this year as farmers in Rajapur, Dhangadhi and other areas who have been selling wheat in large quantities have already sold it. Last year, the Food Management Company started the work with the target of purchasing 5,000 metric tons of wheat but could purchase only 1294 metric tons due to the Covid-19 pandemic.