Paddy growers are a worried lot in the Khanna grain market one of the largest grain markets of Asia - as procurement has almost come to a standstill due to high grain discolouration.
A large number of farmers have been camping in the market for the past at least 10 days, but procurement agencies are not keen to procure produce where the discolouration is more than 3%, as per specifications of the Food Corporation of India (FCI).
With paddy crop damaged due to untimely rain and strong winds in September, there are few farmers in the region whose crop has discolouration up to 3%.
Only such farmers are now able to sell their crop, and that too at Rs. 200-300 per quintal less than the normal price, or those whose produce has reasonably acceptable discolouration.
"No procurement agency is ready to accept the black-coloured crop. In order to ensure that there is no glut-like situation in the market, we have started packing the yield so that when farmers get ready to sell it, lifting starts immediately," said Sushil Kumar Sharma, president of the arhtiya association of Khanna grain market.
It's a double blow for paddy growers this season as their per-acre yield was also lower due to inclement weather conditions.
"Last year, the yield per acre was 35-37 quintals, but this time, since our paddy did not get adequate number of sunny days to attain full growth, the chances of recovering our costs are bleak," said a farmer, Kulwinder Singh, who has been in the grain market for the past 12 days.
The farmers are pinning their hopes on the Centre for relaxing procurement norms.
"A few agencies and arhtiyas are offering to procure our yield at low prices, but we have decided to wait for a decision from the Centre," said Paramjit Singh, a farmer from Aloona Tola village.
However, officials are denying that procurement has been halted in the mandi.
"Though the situation is grim in other markets, procurement is smooth in Khanna. The discolouration is very less here," said market committee secretary Darshan Kumar.
Gurkirat Kotli, Congress MLA from Khanna, has demanded that the Punjab government strongly raise the matter with the Centre to bring relief to farmers.
"Any delay for a few more days would hit the farming sector hard and cause irrecoverable loss. The state government must understand the urgency of the matter," said Kotli.