Stepping up efforts to resolve the farmers’ unrest, which is threatening to damage the image of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the central government, union agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh on Thursday asked the pesticide industry to bring down prices and called for a meeting to press for the reduction of seed prices. Speaking to the Indian Express, a day after the Union Cabinet decided to enhance support for farm loan subvention to ensure more farm credit, Singh said that the government is expected to declare a substantive raise in the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for oial seeds and pulses. “The recommendation of the CACP (Commission for Agricultural Costs & prices) has come. The Cabinet will consider it and announce the MSP… There would be an increase of Rs 400 for oil seeds and pulses,” he said. Farmers in Madhya Pradesh’s Mandsaur, the epicentre of the unrest and an oilseed growing area, have been agitating over low prices and the lack of adequate arrangements by the government to purchase them.

Singh said he has called for a meeting Friday to seek the reduction in seed prices. “I will exhort private companies to reduce prices of seeds so that initiatives taken by the government for farmers are supported. The government’s attempts have been to reduce the cost of production in the agriculture sector. So, bringing down prices of seeds is very important,” he said. However, the minister indicated that the Centre did not want states to announce loan waivers. Asked about farmers in many BJP-ruled states demanding loan waivers on the lines of a decision by UP government, Singh said, “See, our priority is to empower farmers… we are investing in these efforts. We have invested in soil cards, neem-coated urea and crop insurance. We want their income to go up. That is the reason we have invested in allied industries, such as boosting productivity of bovine population to raise per capita milk availability… We want to reduce their cost of production.”

Asked if the Centre would support states in giving bonuses for farmers, Singh said that the food and civil supplies department wanted states to ensure that declared MSP is given to farmers. “Many states are not able to give MSP for farmers and many states are forced to buy grains from other states for rations. So the government is very particular that states would have to give the MSP declared to farmers. There are states that are not able to purchase produce at MSP rates and do not procure as per requirement,” he said.

“The government wants to help farmers by helping them reduce cost and by making a good market available to sell produce. Our schemes are focused on this,” Singh said. The union minister also accused the Opposition Congress of instigating farmers to “agitate violently” against BJP governments.