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SHILLONG: Chief Minister Conrad Sangma and Agriculture Minister Banteidor Lyngdoh have lauded the passage of three Farm bills in the Parliament, stating that the new laws will liberate the farmers and bring about economic benefit.
The chief minister said that the farmer-related bills were positive and should have been passed long time ago while adding that it is a move in the positive direction and will benefit the farmers economically.
Pointing out that contract farming was done before also but there was no formal structure or policy in place, the chief minister said that with the passing of the bills new and bigger opportunities will open up for the farmers.
The NDA Government claims that the three farmer-related bills — Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion & Facilitation Bill), Farmers’ (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill and Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill – are bold, progressive and would transform the agriculture sector apart from raising the farmers’ income.
The government also said it would double farmers’ income by 2022 and also that the bills will make the farmer independent of government controlled markets and fetch them a better price for their produce.
The bills propose to create a system in which the farmers and traders can sell their purchase outside the Mandis (government regulated markets). Further it also encourages intra-state trade and this proposes to reduce the cost of transportation.
Also the bills formulate a framework on the agreements that enable farmers to engage with agri-business companies, retailers, exporters for service and sale of produce while giving the farmer access to modern technology. It also provides benefits for the small and marginal farmers with less than five hectares of land. The bills also will remove items such as cereals and pulses form the list of essential commodities and attract Foreign Direct Investment.
On Monday, The Shillong Times spoke to Agriculture Minister Banteidor Lyngdoh about whether there would be any negative impacts on Meghalaya considering that the Congress and other Opposition parties are opposing the bills.
Lyngdoh said that he had a detailed discussion with the officers of the Department and the conclusion is that Meghalaya would not be impacted by the bills because there are no government regulated markets (mandis) here. Farmers are free to sell their products to the highest bidder.
As far as the minimum support price (MSP) is concerned, Lyngdoh said that it does not affect Meghalaya because the farmers here do not grow surplus crops like rice and wheat which states like Punjab and Haryana do.
“Whatever rice is grown in Meghalaya fetches a good and competitive price for farmers,” Lyngdoh said adding that the only concern is that the Bill allows FDI for contract farming and Meghalaya is a Sixth Schedule state with not enough acreage owned per farmer. He said that even if such contract farming is allowed the contractors must get their trading license from the district councils.
The Agriculture Minister further informed that the Department is exercising its mind on improving and expanding the market at Mawiong and to reactivate the cold storage there. What is of concern is the glut in the market for crops like ginger during the season and hence the need to set up cold storages for such perishable crops so that they are not short-sold but can sell gradually at a price decided by farmers. “We are proposing to set up a cold chain in the Bhoirymbong area in Ri Bhoi district for storing ginger,” he said.
Lyngdoh also informed that after he took over the Department he had persuaded the District Councils not to charge the transit fees of Rs 4500 for transporting broomstick. The money saved is being ploughed back to the farmers.
“The farmers selling broomstick are getting a good price of Rs 105 per kg, which is the highest price ever. We also plan to do value addition so that a value chain is created for this product and farmers earn a better price,” Lyngdoh said.