India to repeal controversial law limiting farmers’ ability to charge prices of their products

India’s Congress Party government in the country has announced plans to repeal a controversial law that put a ceiling on royalties on crops produced by farmers and required them to sell 80 percent of their produce at government-set prices, typically below cost. In recent weeks, hundreds of thousands of farmers held silent protests across the country in protest, saying their land had been taken from them by corrupt officials and greedy businesses.

“The agricultural marketing reforms introduced by previous Congress governments gave a specific ceiling to the prices farmers were allowed to charge from farmers for their produce,” Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi said in a statement on Thursday. “These market reforms, which did not aim to bring down the price of the produce but instead guarantee one for farmers, were unnecessary. It destroyed the development of the agricultural sector.”

Reports say the government would bring the Agricultural Produce Marketing Regulation Act into line with the constitution, and would lift the restriction on farmers’ ability to have prices determined by the market. Among the options being considered are allowing farmers to charge higher prices for their food products and also to sell for the prices they want. Farmers have also been pushed to expand their retail networks.

Last year, the government mandated that all grain crops be given to only state agencies who would allow farmers to be paid a maximum of 650 rupees a metric ton. In the past, many farmers did not bother to sell their grain at government-set prices. The inability to get a fair price for their produce meant that the government would have to allocate expensive grain to the poor. Meanwhile, factories that wanted to buy grain had to pay a fee of 16 rupees per kilogram. Some of the farmers, themselves, were killed after being allegedly cornered in shops to avoid being robbed.

Read the full story at The Guardian.

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