Good days in this procurement season seem to be over, since a glut of procured and purchased wheat is yet to be lifted from all centres.
In the grain markets of Sangrur district, there isn't much space left to unload the fresh stock of wheat, which has put both farmers and purchase agencies in a spot of bother. If officials in the food and civil supplies (FCS) department are to be believed, a heavy arrival of wheat in the starting days itself has led to the situation.
The procurement season opened on April 1. “Wheat, however, arrived at the markets only after April 10 because of late harvest,” said district FCS officer Ajayvir Singh Sarao. “In the very early days, we managed daily procurement,” he said, “but the arrival now is too heavy suddenly and with the focus shifting to purchase, lifting has suffered.”
Of all the wheat purchased, so far, almost 61% keeps blocking space in the 202 grain markets in the district. Of the 7.37-lakh metric tonnes of wheat that different agencies have bought, only 2.90-lakh MT has been lifted. The remaining 5.25 lakh-MT is packed in gunny bags and stacked on the floor.
The procurement of more than 1-lakh MT wheat that arrived at the market within three days of the starting season was a Herculean task already for all departments and agencies involved. The shortage of labour and transport made it worse.
“We expected to procure about 12.50-lakh MT wheat, after doing 12.10-MT in 2012. We have achieved almost 60% of the target. The focus now is on lifting the wheat from the markets to ease the glut,” said district FCS officer Sarao.
The contractors concerned are unable to find enough hands and transport people for lifting. “The rift between the contractors at the time of allotment of tenders created this shortage of labour,” said Sarao. “They were not keen on working on low daily wages.”
Only 54% payment made to farmers
About 7.37-lakh MT wheat is procured already but payments only farmers have only 54% of their payment against total purchase. The agencies that paid them Rs 438 crore still owe them around Rs 807 crore. Payments is stalled because of technical snarls in the swipe-card system through which commission agents collect the payment into their online accounts to pass on to farmers after taking their cut, Sarao has said.
“We managed to handle the technical problem at the district level but now we face money-transfer issues at the banks,” he added.