The ongoing debate surrounding the implementation of a law guaranteeing Minimum Support Price (MSP) for all crops in India has ignited discussions on fiscal responsibility and the welfare of farmers. With protesting farmers clamoring for legislation to ensure MSP for every crop they cultivate, the government finds itself grappling with the daunting fiscal implications of such a move.
Government calculations reveal that enacting a law guaranteeing MSP for all crops would impose a staggering burden of Rs 40 lakh crore on the exchequer. To put this into perspective, this figure falls just shy of the entire expenditure budget of Rs 45 lakh crore allocated for the upcoming financial year. Even confining the guarantee to presently MSP-mandated crops would necessitate a payout of nearly Rs 10 lakh crore, equivalent to the entire capital expenditure budget of the central government.
These figures underscore the government’s reluctance to embrace legislation on “guaranteed MSP,” fearing the destabilization of the country’s fiscal equilibrium. Protesting farmers insist on procurement at MSP by the central government for every crop they cultivate, highlighting the monumental burden this would entail. In the financial year 2020-21, the total value of agricultural produce in India amounted to Rs 40 lakh crore, encompassing dairy, farming, horticulture, livestock, and MSP crops. Just considering the two dozen MSP crops, their market value stood at Rs 10 lakh crore in the same period.
Despite these staggering figures, it’s essential to acknowledge that not all MSP crops produced in India are procured at the minimum support price by the government, as farmers often sell their produce elsewhere. Nevertheless, the Narendra Modi government has significantly increased spending on MSP-based procurement over the years. In 2022-23 alone, the government disbursed nearly Rs 2.28 lakh crore to procure food grains at MSP, representing about 25 percent of the total MSP crops produced. This marks a substantial increase from 2014-15 when Rs 1.06 lakh crore was allocated for the same purpose.
Furthermore, data reveals a significant rise in the quantity of MSP-based procurement of food grains, from 761.40 lakh metric tonnes in 2014-15 to 1,062.69 lakh metric tonnes in 2022-23, constituting a 38 percent increase. However, the demands of farmers persist, underscoring the complexities of balancing fiscal prudence with the imperative to address agrarian distress.
As the debate rages on, finding a viable solution that ensures the welfare of farmers while maintaining fiscal stability remains a formidable challenge. It calls for nuanced policy interventions and constructive dialogue to chart a path forward that reconciles competing interests and fosters sustainable agricultural practices.