Punjab farmers get Rs.12,800 crore for bumper paddy crop

By Jaideep Sarin, IANS,

Chandigarh : At a time when the central government says its national target for paddy procurement may not me met, Punjab farmers have not only managed a bumper crop but received payments of some Rs.12,800 crore (Rs.128 billion/$260 million) in less than 50 days of the current procurement season.

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The state is set to achieve its target of procuring 14 million tonnes of paddy this season. Officials of the food and supplies department and procurement agencies are now focussing on steps to get the produce lifted from grain markets overflowing with the bumper crop.

To facilitate the smooth lifting of paddy from grain markets, the Punjab government has amended the provisions of its paddy procurement policy to enhance the eligibility quota of the rice mills by 500 tonnes of paddy per mill.

“The move is aimed at resolving the problem of lifting of paddy from the mandis markets, created by heavy arrival due to bumper crop this season,” said Punjab’s Director of Food and Supplies D.S. Grewal.

“We also want to take care of the shortfall of milling capacity caused by 271 rice mills declared defaulters by FCI (Food Corp of India). Lifting of paddy by local mills will save on huge costs on account of transporting paddy from one district to another.”

The amended policy is applicable to the districts of Bathinda, Mansa, Sangrur, Barnala, Moga, Faridkot and Muktsar — known for paddy and wheat production.

Even though India expects a 14 million tonne shorfall in grain output this year, Punjab managed a bumper paddy crop this year despite adverse weather conditions and less-than-normal rainfall. Sowing of paddy was also delayed this year owing to less rainfall.

“I’m waiting for a hard assessment of the sub-normal southwest monsoon and the impact of floods in some parts of the country. There are some estimates that grain production will be less — 14-15 million tonnes,” Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said last week.

Yet Punjab and neighbouring Haryana are touching 18 million tonnes of paddy procurement target this year. Sangrur, Ludhiana and Patiala districts are leading in quantity of paddy produce and its procurement this season.

Grewal said during the current Kharif marketing season, government agencies and private mill had already procured 13.74 million tonnes of paddy, against 13.02 million tonnes during the like period last year.

“Paddy started arriving in good quantities only after Octtober 15. Since then, most of the 1,600-odd grain markets have been flooded with stocks,” said procurement official Balbir Singh.

Government agencies alone have procured nearly 98 percent and much of the procured paddy will be contributed by Punjab to the central foodgrain pool, as the central government’s FCI procured less than five percent of the total crop arrival.