Paddy purchase in Punjab has hit a high this year, beating last year's figure well before the end of the procurement season and leaving farmers happier with record payments made within 72 hours of purchase.
Last year's procurement of 12.47 million metric tonnes was crossed on Wednesday with government agencies and private millers lifting stocks of over 12.4 million metric tonnes from grain markets spread across the state.
The procurement season will officially continue till the end of December.
"Procurement this year has been a smooth affair. We have ensured strict checks for procurement and payments are being made to farmers without delay," Punjab's director of food and supplies SP Singh told IANS.
Although still lower than the bumper paddy crop of 14 million metric tonnes in 2004-05 and 13.8 million metric tonnes in 2005-06, procurement officials say that the crop was much better than last year.
Paddy actually sold in the grain markets is much more than the official number of 12.47 million metric tonnes procured because farmers sold over 1.1 million metric tonnes of paddy to private millers before Sep 26, when the official procurement started.
Five agencies of the Punjab government - Pungrain, Markfed, Punsup, Punjab State Warehousing Corp and Punjab Agro Industries Ltd - and one central agency, Food Corp of India, have procured bulk of the paddy stocks from the market. These agencies accounted for nearly 82 per cent of the procured paddy.
The FCI has lifted only 1.3 per cent of the total paddy procured this season. This is in sharp contrast to the nearly 20 per cent of the stocks that it used to lift from the state in previous years.
FCI sources say that last year also the corporation lifted just two per cent of the stocks. This was mainly owing to FCI officials fearing probes if they lifted stocks that were not as per specifications.
Private millers and companies have procured nearly 18 per cent of the total paddy procured.
The state agencies have already released record payments of nearly Rs 73 billion to farmers for the paddy purchased.
The Punjab government have allotted over Rs 77.8 billion for procurement.
"This year, the payment has been made smoothly. In previous years, farmers had to wait for months to get payments," farmer Gurmail Singh of Khamano said.
Ludhiana district has topped in paddy procurement this season with nearly 1.7 million metric tonnes of paddy being procured. It was followed by Sangrur and Patiala districts.
The state government had set up 1,544 procurement centres across the state.
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has sanctioned a cash credit limit of over Rs 90.58 billion to the Punjab government for paddy purchase.
The state government has sought sanction of another Rs 9.5 billion for procurement in the coming days - a record for payments in one season as well.