MSP panel stresses on changing cropping patterns to save water

New Delhi: Giving a push to crop diversification for improving the underground water table in paddy growing states, the committee on Minimum Support Price (MSP) has identified over 107 crop cycles across the county for changing the crop pattern. The panel has also stressed on ensuring procurement of paddy on MSP across the country and brings more crops under MSP to make it multi-dimensional.

During its second and third meetings, which were held in Hyderabad and Bhubaneswar respectively, the members of the panel has agreed upon preparing a strategy for changing the crop pattern and introducing new crops to maintain ecological balance and improve the depleting underground water for future needs.

Summarising the discussions held during the meetings, MSP panel member Binod Anand said that cultivation of conventional agricultural crops such as paddy, cotton, sugarcane, soya and wheat are water intensive crops and saving water is one of most important challenge for all the stakeholders of agriculture sector.

"The MSP committee has also agreed to formulate a strategy for changing food consumption pattern that has completely changed from previous years. Members present in the meeting stressed on propagating the inclusion of millets and millet-based food items in the food basket of common masses. When the demand of other food items would increase, farmers would also take interest in cultivating those crops which would result in enhancing the income of farmers," said Anand, who is also secretary general of Confederation of NGO of Rural India (CNRI).

As per the MSP panel member, in Punjab, the change in crop pattern may be applied in Amritsar, which is a paddy belt.

It has been estimated that Amritsar and adjoining areas may face acute water shortage and there would be a dearth of potable water if paddy cultivation continues for the next 10 years. The Committee also discussed in detail about the strategies to take the improvement of soil health forward as the government now has a data of soil health through Soil Health Card.

The MSP panel has also decided to recommend the government to abolish Zero Budget as it's not feasible and misleading. "Farming cannot be of zero budget. The labour cost of even a marginal farmer cannot be neglected," he said, adding that it was discussed to form a special purpose vehicle for providing assistance to farmers in case there is a loss of yield either due to crop diversification or extreme weather conditions and it was proposed to provide market linkage through new cooperatives to farmers for their agricultural products.

"It was proposed to open testing labs at PACS (Primary Agricultural Credit Societies) and strengthening of FPOs by providing contact details of importers and importing countries," he said.

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