Responding to concerns expressed by the opposition on farmers being forced to sell wheat below the minimum price set by the government, Paswan said import duty on wheat was zero between 2006 and 2015.
In 2015, a customs duty of 25 per cent was levied on wheat which was subsequently cut to 10 per cent and totally removed in December last year. The duty was cut following fears of a spike in prices as wheat output had dropped due to hail storm, he said, adding the crop production this year has been at a record 96.64 million tons besides 6.5 million tons been in stockpile.
Earlier raising the issue through a zero hour mention, Ramgopal Yadav (SP) said farmers in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh were being forced to sell their produce before the Minimum Support Price of Rs 1,625 per quintal due to cheaper imports available as a result of zero customs duty. He said the cost of production of wheat comes to Rs 1,900 per quintal and farmers were losing Rs 300 per quintal on at current MSP and Unless import duty is levied, farmer will continue to be in distress.
Digvijaya Singh said MSP operation should be started in states were early variety of wheat is available. While Cong MP Pramod Tiwari said 119 farmers had committed suicide in Maharashtra because of the distress caused by zero import duty and unremunerative prices.
T K Rangarajan (CPI-M) through another zero hour mention raised the issue of problems being faced by coconut cultivators in view of a mere 4 per cent hike in MSP. He wanted more funds be allocated from Coconut Development Board to Tamil Nadu as it accounted for the maximum coconut production at 34 per cent.