It has been freakiest rabi season in Punjab in years. Rain, hailstorm and fast winds in the region over the past three months have affected the crop yield and quality, forcing the Centre to impose value cut on the minimum support price.
Experts don’t see how farmers can recover their input cost from here. They fear that poor rabi crop will impact the sowing of kharif crop as well. The state agencies and the departments of agriculture and food and civil supplies are shocked that the yield has fallen 10 to 30% against their projection of 7 to 10%.
The miseries of farmers aren’t over. Because of tardy purchase at most procurement centres, lifting and payment are yet to gather pace. Farmers are forced to sit by their produce and wait for things to move. Mandis are choked with wheat and stuffed gunny bags, 7.7 lakh of which lie in Asia’s largest procurement centre at Khanna, waiting to be lifted. Even in a much smaller mandi of Peerjain, more than 50,000 bags are stacked.
In across the state on Monday, per acre yield had come down to 14 to 20 quintals against a projection of 22 to 24 quintals. “It is shocking for us. We never expected the yield to fall so drastically,” said state agriculture department joint director (crop health) BS Sohal. He said it was a double blow for farmers that the quality had also suffered.
“Even the input cost can’t be recovered. I demand compensation from the government in this really bad year,” said farmer Nirmal Singh of Mulanpur village in Ludhiana district, stuck in the Khanna mandi for past five days for the procurement of his produce. Reports from Ludhiana, Amritsar, Patiala, Sangrur, Khanna, Moga, Bathinda, and Jalandhar aren’t much encouraging. State agriculture minister Tota Singh said he was “breaking out in a cold sweat looking at the plight of farmers”. “Scientists failed to predict weather, but there is none mightier than nature,” he said, adding that Punjab was looking to the Centre for compensation. The Centre, he said, could easily spare `3,000 crore, while the state has no means to help farmers. “The Centre should to announce a one-time bonus (on MSP),” he said.
State farmers commission consultant PS Rangi said: “The state agriculture department failed to give a fair idea of the loss in yield and demand adequate compensation from the Centre. If input cost can’t be recovered, it will impact the sowing of paddy,” he said.