Farmers upset as wheat import duty waived

Chandigarh, Dec 9 (IANS) Farmers’ organisations and agriculturists are upset over the decision of the central government to waive the import duty on wheat and bring it down to 10 per cent.

Though the move to lower the import duty for wheat follows the recent marginal rise in retail price of wheat flour, which has gone up by Rs 1-2 per kg in different parts of the country after the November 8 demonetisation move announced by the government, farmers are worried that traders will take advantage of the situation to import more wheat while the local produce will not be preferred.

“This move will have after-effects for the agriculture sector and for farmers. With the import influx, the traders (who import wheat) will dictate terms to local farmers,” Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) national president and former MP Bhupinder Singh Mann told IANS.

Even though there were concerns that the demonetisation move of the Narendra Modi government had impacted the wheat sowing season in the past one month as farmers found difficulty in getting seeds due to cash crunch, reports suggest that the sown area under wheat was higher in the country this time.

“The demonetisation move is against farming. The whole system is anti-agriculture. The Modi government has done nothing to bail out agriculture out of its crisis. The input costs of agriculture are rising while prices are not. The import duty waiver will further hit the farmers,” Mann pointed out.

Agrarian states Punjab and Haryana, which led the Green Revolution in the 1960s, contribute nearly 60 per cent of food grains to the national kitty. The wheat procurement by these states is around 180 lakh tonnes.

“Giving a waiver on wheat import will put the farmers at the mercy of traders. They will dictate prices for local produce and farmers may have to resort to distress selling. In the name of quality of the grains, traders may opt for imported wheat from Australia and Ukraine,” Fateh Singh Sidhu, a farmer in Punjab’s Sirhind area, told IANS.

Trade sources say that, taking advantage of the import duty waiver, traders will place import orders from other countries right away and the wheat will start arriving even before the next produce of wheat in India, which comes in bulk in April-May, hits the market.

“Farmers are always at the receiving end from the government and its agencies. It seems that the government wants to kill farming. There is hardly any step initiated by the Modi government or the previous ones to help farmers,” rued Zile Singh, a farmer in Haryana’s Kurukshetra district.