October 26, 2000,
Farmers selling paddy on millers’ terms
KHANNA (Ludhiana), Oct 25 —The festival of lights, has failed to arouse the usual enthusiasm amongst farmers of the state, who remain disgruntled. With government agencies refusing to lift the produce on account of it being of ‘poor quality’, the farmers are selling their produce at throwaway prices to private millers incurring huge losses to get some remuneration for their labour to celebrate Divali.
In spite of tall promises made by the state government regarding the lifting of the bumper paddy crop this season from September 21, the farmers and the commission agents allege that they have been given a raw deal at the hands of the government.
During a visit to the biggest grain market in Asia here today, farmers and commission agents alleged that other than the fact that the government first started the procurement process late and then discarded most of the farmers’ produce on the pretext that it was of poor quality, things have not changed even after certain relaxations having been announced.
Mr Bhupinder Singh, a farmer of Shahpur village in the Amloh sub- division, who has been stationed in the grain mandi here for almost a fortnight in the hope of selling his produce at reasonable rates, lamented that the government was least bothered about them and that the concessions that had been recently announced were nothing more than an eye wash.
He alleged that the agencies were rejecting the paddy on frivolous grounds. “Today itself, officials of a government agency procured half a pile of my crop and rejected the other half on pretext of it being discoloured. Is it possible that the paddy grown on the same piece of land and under the same climatic conditions could be of different quality? While half of my produce lifted by the government sold for Rs 540 per quintal, the other half rejected by the agency was sold off to a private miller for Rs 420 per quintal.”
It may be noted that till date the various government agencies like Food and Civil Supplies Department, PUNSUP, Markfed, the FCI, Punjab Agro Industries Corporation and the Punjab State Warehousing Corporation has lifted 110565 tonnes of paddy as against 1,90610 tonnes of paddy procured by the government last year. As a result, it is the private millers who are having a field day with 79,330 tonnes of paddy being lifted by them alone, obviously at a low price.
Interestingly, while the government has fixed its Minimum Support Price at Rs 540 per quintal for parmal and Rs 510 per quintal for IR-8, the farmers are getting a measly sum of Rs 460 to Rs 420 per quintal by the millers for parmal rice and Rs 400 to Rs 410 per quintal for IR-8 variety. Still, the farmers are continuing with the distress sale of their crop.
Mr Ranbir Sood, Secretary of the Federation of Arhtiya Associations of Punjab, said that farmers now had no alternative as they had to sell their crop at whatever price it was possible. “Yesterday itself, only two piles of paddy were lifted from the mandi by the agencies and seeing this, the other farmers have begun to lose heart and are selling their crop to the millers and at the latter’s terms.”
Both farmers as well as the commission agents claim that the produce this year is of top quality. Says Mahendra Singh, a farmer from Kaddon village,” The colour, yield and the variety of paddy is one of the best that can be produced. The discolouration, if any , is only superficial, but the grain is guaranteed long and with a good aroma.”
In fact, farmers from areas as far off as Nawanshahr, Tarn Taran, Guru Harsahai, Bilga, Samana and Sunam are converging on the grain market here in the hope of getting a better price. Like Balwant Singh, a farmer from Dholata village in Jalandhar who had a total produce of 400 quintals. But being unable to get a good price in the Goraya grain market, he brought 300 quintals of paddy here. “For the past 16 days I have been sitting here in order to get my due, but to no avail. Every day, the officials of the procurement agencies tell us that the paddy needs to be dried further and I am incurring huge labour costs to do so. Despite that I see no sign of my crop being lifted by any agency”, he apprehended, while adding regretfully that he would sell his produce at whatever price he would get so that he could return home in time for Divali.
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