Upset with the delayed payments and damaged crop, paddy farmers had a reason to cheer on Wednesday.
On the 10th day of the procurement season on Thursday, agencies received 24 rice mills to stock paddy in the district.
For the past nine days, the deadlock between rice millers and the state government was haunting farmers due to which the lifting of paddy was almost stalled. Roads leading to grain markets were covered with paddy due to increase in arrival of paddy and no place to store it.
Though the mills brought some respite for farmers, drizzling, later during the day, added to their woes as it would lead to an increase in the moisture content in grains.
Officials in the food and supply department claimed that lifting process had been started in the district, but a visit to the market showed a different picture.
Avtar Singh, a farmer from Jandu Singha village, said: “I have been staying in the market for the past five days, but none of the officials of procurement agencies reached here to purchase paddy.”
About the storage, he said: “The sheds in grain markets were already packed with maize gunny bags, so we had no other option but to keep our paddy outside sheds or on roads,” he said.
He said Thursday's rain would increase the moisture content in grains and he would have to stay in the market for a few more days to sell his crop.
Criticising the state government, he said farmers faced similar problems in grain markets whenever the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) came to power.
Gurdial Singh, another farmer, said: “I have been staying in the grain market for the past three days as procurement agencies' officials have refused to purchase my yield. They had cited high moisture content as the reason on Monday, but after that none of them came back to check the crop.”
He said farmers had no choice except keeping produce on roads as the sheds were full to their capacity due to non-lifting of paddy.
Amanjeet Singh, commission agent, said the moisture content of paddy was around 22% to 25%, much above the permissible limit of 17%. “Farmers should bring their paddy to markets only after drying it properly so that they do not suffer here,” he said.
Till Thursday, only 5,826-MT paddy was lifted out of a total of 56,026 MT procured paddy in the grain markets of the district.
District food and supply controller Rakesh Singla said a meeting was held in Chandigarh on Thursday and 24 shellers had been allotted to procurement agencies. “Paddy lifting will pick up fast within a day,” he added.