Government sets up panel to consider MSP hike, bonus for pulse production

New Delhi: To address the issue of escalating prices of pulses, the Union government on Monday set up a high-level committee headed by Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian to consider a "reasonable increase" in minimum support price (MSP) for pulses and bonus for farmers. A ministerial committee headed by Finance Minister Arun Jatley also decided to increase the buffer stocks to 20 lakh tonnes from the existing 8 lakh tonnes. A Food Ministry spokesman said that on the suggestion of Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, a ministerial committee headed by Arun Jaitley decided that a committee headed by Subramanian will "consider reasonable increase in MSP for pulses and bonus for the farmers for producing pulses". Briefing reporters, Paswan said: "The government has decided to set up the committee under the chief economic advisor to frame a long-term policy on pulses, which will look into various options, including MSP and bonus. In my understanding, the production bonus is more fruitful for farmers as compared to MSP." The committee will submit its report in two weeks. At the meeting attended among others by Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh, Information and Broadcasting Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu and Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Paswan said that the central government can provide more pulses to the states - 'tur' at Rs 66 per kg and 'urad' at Rs 82 - for retail distribution. The meeting also decided to increase the buffer stock of pulses to 20 lakh tonnes from the existing 8 lakh tonnes, sources said. The government has already decided to import of pulses from countries like Mozambique and Myanmar, the meeting was told and will further "explore avenues for imports from more pulse-growing nations on a government-to-government basis". The central government has been forced to take urgent steps on the pulse front as despite efforts to increase availability through buffer stocks and imports, the prices of pulses including 'chana dal' have been going up, and in Delhi and parts of north India, the retail price, on average, is around Rs 190-Rs 200 per kg. The ministerial committee expressed concern over prices of chana dal. "It was the opinion of the committee that the state governments should take strict action to ensure its availability at reasonable prices as there is good production and arrival of chana," an official spokesman said. Faced with demand-supply issues with pulses and oilseeds and to bring down dependence on imports, the government on June 1 sought to exhort farmers to target higher productivity of these commodities and hiked the MSP of kharif (summer) pulses and oilseeds. The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) at its meeting presided over by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on June 1 decided to give a "bonus, over and above the recommendations of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP)" of Rs 425 per quintal for kharif pulses -- for arhar (tur), urad and moong dals and for oilseeds.