The Centre on Sunday proposed to buy pulses, cotton and maize at a minimum support price with no quantity limitations for five years, PTI reported.

The proposal was made at the fourth round of negotiations between the Union government and farmers’ groups.

The talks came amid a protest by thousands of farmers from Punjab, who have been stopped at the state’s border with Haryana as they aim to march to Delhi, to press the Centre to accept their 21-point demand charter. They are primarily seeking a law guaranteeing a minimum support price for agricultural commodities and the implementation of the MS Swaminathan Commission Report’s wider recommendations on farming in India.

“Farmer representatives brought forward some topics and in them barring three-four issues, a consensus appeared to be emerging on the rest of the issues with innovative thinking that would help farmers of Haryana, Punjab and rest of the country,” Piyush Goyal, the Union minister for commerce and industry, told reporters on Sunday.

The Centre proposed that cooperative societies like the National Cooperative Consumers Federation and the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India will also buy pulses – arhar, tur and urad – and corn from the farmers at a minimum support price for the next five years.

“Similarly, we proposed that the Cotton Corporation of India will enter [a] five-year agreement with farmers to buy cotton crops at MSP [minimum support price],” Goyal said. “We believe that cotton should be revived in Punjab.”

After the meeting in Chandigarh on Sunday, leaders of the farmers’ groups said that they will discuss the government’s proposal over the next two days and decide their course of action, PTI reported.

A 14-member delegation represented the protesting farmers from Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Karnataka and Delhi. The delegation was led by Sarvan Singh Pandher, the coordinator of the Kisan Mazdoor Morcha and general secretary of the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee, and Jagjit Singh Dallewal, the president of Bharti Kisan Union Ekta (Sidhupur).

Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann, who also participated in the meeting, said that an agreement for the purchase of these five crops should be made to push for crop diversification.

Agriculture experts have advocated crop diversification as a solution to the growing environmental crisis in Punjab and Haryana, which includes depleting soil quality and water table.

Most of the wheat and rice that the government procures comes from these two states. Haryana and Punjab accounted for nearly 74% of the wheat and 28% of the paddy purchased by the Centre in the financial year 2022-’23.

However, farmers say they are struggling to get fair prices for other major crops such as moong, mustard and sunflower. Although the government declares minimum support prices for these crops, it does not buy at these prices.

Last week, two umbrella bodies of around 200 farmers’ and farm labourer unions, the Kisan Mazdoor Morcha and the Sanyukt Kisan Morcha (Non-Political) had called for a march to Delhi to press the Centre for their demands.

However, farmers from Punjab have been stopped at Shambhu, the state’s border with Haryana. The Haryana Police has barricaded the border with concrete structures and barbed wires.

A Punjab minister has claimed that three protestors were blinded when the Haryana Police used pellet guns on the farmers. The Haryana Police claimed that they have only fired tear gas and rubber pellets at the protestors.

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