Supporting Indian Farmers: Price Support or Direct Income/Investment Support?

With increasing farm distress in the wake of falling farm prices in 2017, the State Government of Madhya Pradesh (GoMP) came out with an innovative scheme called Bhavantar Bhugtan Yojana(BBY), a price deficiency payment (PDP) scheme, to support farmers. It covered eight Kharif crops in 2017-18 and promised to pay the difference between their minimum support prices (MSPs) and their market prices (averaged for MP and at least two other adjoining states). The scheme was abruptly withdrawn in March 2018 just before the commencement of rabi-marketing season. In this paper we review the scheme, the challenges it posed in its implementation during kharif 2017-18, but more importantly compute its likely costs, if it is scaled at the national level. Under the assumption of MSP being equal to 1.5 times A2+FL cost, and excluding the quantum of paddy and wheat procured at MSP and sugarcane at FRP/SAP, we find that compensation of Rs 56,518 crore will have to be made if market prices are 10 percent lower than MSP, Rs 1.13 lakh crore when market prices are 20 percent lower than MSP and Rs 1.69 lakh crore when prices are 30 percent lower than MSPs. We find that the scheme is prone to manipulation by traders and lower level mandi functionaries, and may end up helping them more than the farmers, despite best intentions of the Government.