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Southern states line up for Punjab rice
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 5
The Union Government has pressed the panic button as southern states such as Tamil Nadu and Kerala have urged it to rush the supply of rice from Punjab. In fact, Tamil Nadu desperately needs the supply of par-boiled rice.

The Centre is constantly in touch with the Punjab’s Food Supplies Department for getting the supply for Tamil Nadu, which has pegged its demand at 18 lakh tonne. Par-boiled rice is mainly prepared in the Ferozepore belt.

Punjab, which has set a new record in the production of paddy even though the area under this crop was reduced by one lakh hectares this time, is expected to supply over 90 lakh tonne rice to the Central pool.

“We have started the shelling of rice on large scale in the state. Every day, about 50,000 tonne paddy is being converted into rice. About 3 lakh tonne of rice has already been supplied to the Central pool”, said a senior officer of the Punjab Food Supplies Department.

“It is time for a big celebration as Punjab’s rice is back in the reckoning in southern states”, he added, recalling the “bad period” four years ago when Punjab’s rice had become a victim of politics because of the clout of Mr Chandrababu Naidu, former Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, at the national level. Punjab faced rough weather as Andhra Pradesh had succeeded to slow down its supply of rice to the southern states.

Now, almost all rice deficit states in the country are keen to have Punjab’s rice. The country at the moment does not have huge buffer stock of foodgrains. The existing stock is slightly above the buffer stock limit, say informed sources. Not only rice, even wheat is being rushed to other states from Punjab. About 10 lakh tonnes of wheat is being moved out from the state to other parts of the country every month.

In fact, when new crop of wheat will arrive in Punjab in April next year, the state will be having almost zero stock of wheat in its godowns. All old stock of wheat has been cleared from the state. Only three years ago, Punjab Government has been virtually fighting with the Union Government to move buffer wheat stock from the state at a better place.

“But it was never so good, as it is now for the state”, say senior officers. “The state has succeeded to re-establish its clout by way of its food production at the national level.

Given the existing situation on foodgrains in the country, the Centre would not like Punjab to diversify its agriculture. It would like the state continue growing rice and wheat,” they add.

“Of course, foodgrains crisis in other states would hit the programme for diversification in Punjab as the Centre would never support it because it would not be in the national interest”, said a senior officer of the state government.

Punjab, which cut the area under paddy crop by about one lakh hectares this year, has set a new record as far as its production is concerned. Already, 136.59 lakh tonne paddy has been procured by the government agencies and private traders in the state. The last best figure of procurement of paddy was 134.5 lakh tonne last year.

The paddy yield is expected to touch a figure of 145 lakh tonne this year.


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