Disappointed by the low price of basmati, the paddy farmers now struggle to get payment for the parmal (non-basmati) varieties that the government agencies have procured.
Thousands of commission agents and farmers await payment more than 10 days after they sold the produce. Against the total required payment of `1,332 crore, they have received only `980 crore, and need the remaining `352 crore urgently to buy seed and other inputs such as diesel and fertiliser for the next crop, wheat.
The payment of `1 crore was pending with Pungrain for the past one week, said Kamal Chaudhary of Krishan Chand and Sons trading company. "We are waiting for our payment of `80 lakh from Pungrain and don't know how long it will take," said Keso Ram and Brothers trading company accountant Balraj Singh.
Farmer Jeet Singh has waited eight days, so far, to receive payment. "Mai ajj sunya ki Badal saab Dilli gaye hoye ne Centre sarkar ton payment len lai (today I heard that chief minister Parkash Singh Badal was in Delhi to collect the payment from the central government)," he said.
The farmers are worried that late payment would delay the sowing of wheat, as they don't have money to purchase inputs. "This is the best time to sow wheat and we do not have money. We had losses, since paddy failed to fetch us remunerative price. If delayed, even wheat will not give us any profit," said farmer Harjinder Singh of Ubhawal village in the district.
Farmers' anger is at the tipping point. "We have raised our issue with the state government by submitting memorandums to the deputy commissioners, and if it doesn't act in two days, we'll block traffic on national highways in the state," said Bharti Kisan Union (Rajowal) state secretary Niranjan Singh.
Official figures put the total paddy procurement, so far, to be 10.50 lakh metric tonnes (MT) in 205 grain markets of the district, which government agencies Punsup, Markfed, Punjab Agro, Food Corporation of India (FCI), and Punjab State Warehousing Corporation doing bulk of the task. The state procurement agencies, however, have failed to make the payment for paddy since October 25, while the FCI has cleared its dues.
Asked to comment, district food and supplies commissioner Manish Narula said the payment was help up for want of funds from the head office. About the reason for the delay, he said: "I don't know but we
have made a written request to the head office for timely payment to farmers."