The moisture content higher than the permissible limit of 17% in paddy has become a cause for concern for farmers as well as commission agents. While farmers whose produce has the moisture content more than the permissible limit have to reportedly sell paddy below the minimum support price (MSP) of Rs 1,345 per quintal, commission agents are also afraid of losing their customers at the Kotkapura grain market.
Farmers claim that the problem of higher moisture content arose because of bad weather and late sowing of paddy after June 10, a condition imposed by the government. The late-sown paddy matures in the cold season and the government agencies do not accept the produce with higher moisture content.
"We have been caught in a very difficult situation because some commission agents who have their own rice mills are accepting paddy with moisture content beyond permissible limit at their own risk, while over 100 commission agents are suffering because the produce with higher moisture content at their shops is not being lifted by millers," said an office-bearer of the commission agents' association.
"We have talked to the rice millers on the issue and they have agreed to lift the stock with only 18% moisture content and if the moisture content is beyond that, there would be an unofficial reduction in the prices," he added.
The paddy with 19% moisture would have an unofficial reduction of Rs 15 per quintal, 20% with Rs 30 and 21% moisture content will have a reduction of Rs 45 per quintal on the MSP, said a member of the arhtiya association on the condition of anonymity.
"While the government would pay the amount as per the MSP, but the money from the unofficial reduction would be allegedly given to the miller if he agrees to lift the produce having higher than permissible moisture content," claimed a commission agent.
"The commission agents who own rice mills are attracting our customers by offering them immediate procurement at the MSP while at other shops, the rice millers are raising objection to moisture content beyond permissible limit," said another commission agent.
Five such cases have been reported in Kotkapura grain market, where farmers lifted their already procured paddy to sell at the shops of those who own rice mills, he added.
"We want an official solution and it should also be applicable to all. If such a practice takes place it should come on record," he said.
Jaspreet Singh Kahlon, district food and supplies controller, Faridkot, said, "The government agencies cannot procure paddy at a price less than the MSP and they have to make procurement as per the laid down specification with 17% moisture content."
"Due to bad weather, moisture content has gone up to 23% in some cases. I will visit the grain market at Kotkapura on Monday to check if there is some problem in the procurement process. All the rice mills except 23 defaulters have been allotted to the procurement agencies," he added.
Expressing his concern, Chamkaur Singh, a farmer from Bir Sikhan Wala village, said, "Procurement should not be allowed with the unofficial reduction in prices on the basis of moisture content, otherwise this vicious circle would lead to the loot of farmers at the hands of private traders."
Most paddy in the fields would still take several days to mature and that too with permissible moisture content.
Moreover, farmers are getting impatient due to inclement weather. Faridkot deputy commissioner Mohammad Tayyab could not be contacted despite repeated attempts on his cell phone to seek his comment about the unfair practice, which may start in days to come.