Two maize dryer plants the state government has set up in the district to promote crop diversification with central assistance will be operational within a week.
The state government had installed these ultramodern facilities in the grain markets of Nakodar and Bhogpur in 2014-15 at an estimated cost of Rs 6 crore each to encourage farmers to break the conventional paddy-wheat cycle.
Initially, these plants were being operated by the state government but soon after the Punjab state agricultural marketing board expressed its inability to run these plants due to heavy maintenance cost during off season.
Keeping in view the upcoming maize harvesting season, tenders were floated by the board officials to entrust the task to a private contractor on May 6.
Nakodar plant project coordinator Tajinder Singh said the tendering process has been completed and a memorandum of understanding was signed with the contractor.
A local commission agent has been roped in for the work for five years.He said trials are being conducted by the contractor and plant will start operating in full capacity soon. Farmers are approaching them to avail of the facility, he said. Having Taiwanese technology, the plants have four large driers with a capacity of 60 tonnes and can produce 240 tonnes dry maize in just one go.
The Doaba region is considered the maize hub of Punjab. Five such plants were set up by the government in Jalandhar, Nawanshahar, Kapurthala and Hoshairpur districts to cater the needs of farmers in the region.
District agriculture development officer Naresh Gulati said the area under the maize crop in the district is 15,600 hectares and plans are working to increase it to 18,000 hectares.
The department is trying to promote maize crop as consumes less water than paddy or wheat. Moreover, it can be sown during both the seasons, he said.
District mandi officer Varinder Khera said the facilities would help farmers sell their produce as the agriculture department will address their marketing concerns. Even as the Centre has fixed minimum support price (MSP) of Rs 1,365 per quintal for the current fiscal the well-dried maize will fetch them more than Rs 1,400 a quintal, he added.