India offers protesting farmers support prices on corn, cotton, pulses

By Thomson Reuters Feb 18, 2024 | 10:07 PM

MUMBAI (Reuters) – India has offered guaranteed support prices for pulses, corn and cotton in a bid to break a deadlock with protesting farmers, Trade Minister Piyush Goyal said after week-long clashes with security forces keeping the farmers out of the capital.

Tear gas and barricades were used to deter the farmers, who form an influential voting bloc, months ahead of a general election due by May, in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeks a record third term.

Sunday’s comments followed marathon talks with farmers’ unions after the farmers, who are demanding a minimum price for their produce, were halted at a distance of about 200 km (125 miles) from New Delhi.

Goyal said the government had proposed five-year contracts between co-operative societies it promotes and farmers who diversify their crops to grow toor dal, urad dal, masoor dal and corn, for the purchase of such crops at a minimum support price.

“These organisations will buy the produce and there will be no limit on quantity,” Goyal told reporters in the northern city of Chandigarh, adding that a similar price guarantee would also be offered to farmers who diversify and produce cotton.

The farmers unions said they would decide on the proposal within a day or two, after conferring among themselves to reach a consensus.

Police have used tear gas and barricades to stop thousands of farmers from marching to New Delhi to press their demand that the government set a minimum price for all their produce to ensure their livelihoods.

(Reporting by Shilpa Jamkhandikar; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)