Central team to visit Punjab to assess paddy damage


Chandigarh : A high-level central team will visit Punjab Tuesday for an on-the-spot assessment of damage caused to paddy crop due to inclement weather.

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This follows a communication from Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar Sunday, seeking relaxation in the specifications of paddy being procured by government agencies.

Badal had pointed out that moisture content in the paddy crop was higher this time and discoloration occurred due to heavy rainfall in September. He added that the hailstorm Oct 22 left the paddy in grain markets soaked in water and the produce was likely to have higher moisture content.

The special team of senior officers will visit grain markets in Ludhiana, Moga, Sangrur, Barnala and Mansa districts Tuesday, a spokesman of the chief minister’s office said here.

Badal warned the central government that if specifications of moisture and discoloration of paddy were not relaxed during procurement of the crop this season, it could lead to a law and order problem in the state because farmers were furious vis-a-vis the procurement agencies.

In separate letters to Singh and Pawar, the chief minister said the moisture specification should be increased from 17 to 20 percent and discoloration of paddy up to 10 percent.

With another bumper crop of paddy this season, Punjab has procured over 8.5 million (85 lakh) tonnes of paddy since the procurement started Oct 1.

Five procurement agencies of the state government and the Food Corp of India (FCI) are engaged in the procuring process at 1,710 centres across Punjab.

Badal said he had told Pawar that the central government must know that the paddy has been affected for reasons beyond the control of farmers.

“We need to come to the aid of the beleaguered farmer who sweats and toils for the national (food) security. The farmer has stood by the country in its hour of food crisis,” the chief minister had said in a statement here.

“Now, it is the turn of the government to stand by the farmer,” he added.