New Delhi: Irked by curbs on milk, cotton and sugar exports, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar has shot off a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stating that the government's policies are hurting farmers who are being asked to subsidise the industry.
Mr Pawar wrote to the Prime Minister on Tuesday, a day after group of ministers disallowed cotton export beyond 13 million bales for the current marketing year.
He strongly criticised Food Ministry headed by K V Thomas and the Textile Ministry under the charge of Anand Sharma for the policies which are "ambivalent" and go against farmers. Describing restriction on cotton exports as "retrograde", the NCP chief said: "Indian cotton farmers should not be asked to bear the burden of subsidising the textile mills.
"Compromising the interest of small cotton farmers to benefit the textile magnates is indeed a travesty of justice. Moreover, it defies logic to permit the consumer of cotton (textile industry) to dictate terms to cotton producer...".
Similarly, he said the "negative approach" of the Food Department in allowing sugar exports has led to heavy losses in export earnings which could have been used to clear cane arrears to farmers that have crossed Rs. 8,000 crore.
Mr Pawar told the Prime Minister, "On numerous occasions I have discussed with you the need to have farmer-centric agriculture policy...On each of these occasions, I have found you in consonance with these ideas.
"However, despite this, our government has time and again taken the decision, which go against the interest of the farming community and adversely impacts its growth and stability".
High input cost and low realisation from his produce has pushed the farmer into a corner where he fights for his survival, he said, underscoring the need for a free trade regime to ensure a remunerative price to farmers.
Besides Mr Pawar, the cotton exports ban has also been opposed by Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and Congress party's Maharashtra and Gujarat units.
On sugar exports, Mr Pawar said, "The negativity prevalent in the Department (of Food) regarding sugar exports can best gauged from the fact that though the decision to allow sugar exports of 10 lakh tonnes was taken on March 26, 2012, no orders regarding the same have been issued till date."
He pointed out that the Food Department is yet to come out with any methodology to expedite sugar exports despite direction of the Empowered Group of Ministers to do away with the quota system of allocating export quantity among mills.
"We must learn from the mistake of 2006-07 and 2007-08, when we spent Rs. 1,500 crore on export and buffer subsidy to bail out the sugar industry and provide succor to the sugarcane farmers," Mr Pawar warned.
In view of higher domestic output, the government has allowed export of 30 lakh tonnes in three equal tranches for this year. The food ministry is yet to notify the export decision for third tranche.
Mr Pawar said that the Centre's policy towards milk and milk products has been "equally ambivalent" and demanded opening of export of skimmed milk powder and casein.
In the letter, Mr Pawar has highlighted that the country has produced record production of foodgrains, cotton, sugarcane and oilseeds despite rising input costs.
"For the government's MSP (minimum support price) to cover all the costs is well nigh impossible and it is thus necessary for us to allow a free market and trade regime to ensure remunerative prices to the farmers," he explained.
Stating that there is relentless pressure on farm sector to produce more, Mr Pawar said, "It is imperative that we do not stymie the growth of our agriculture sector by policies which further worsen the returns to the Indian farmers."
First Published: Thursday, April 12, 2012, 09:04