Paddy procurement began in Punjab on Thursday, even as the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) released Rs 18,972 crore for the purpose.
Reviewing arrangements for paddy procurement for the kharif season 2015-16, state food and civil supplies minister Adaish Partap Singh Kairon said all efforts had been made to ensure hassle-free procurement and timely payment of the produce.
Meanwhile, five-member committee set up by the Prime Minister’s office would look into the settlement of outstanding cash credit limit (CCL) for procurement of foodgrains in Punjab.
The decision to form the committee was taken last month at a meeting between Punjab chief secretary Sarvesh Kaushal and PMO officers. It was discussed that accounts to the tune of Rs 43,882.16 crore were to be settled, for which Punjab was asked to submit claims.
The committee comprises three officers from the Centre – an additional secretary-rank officer of the department of food and public distribution and one joint secretary-rank officer each from the department of food and public distribution and the department of financial services under the ministry of finance. It has two officers from Punjab: secretary, food, civil supplies and consumer affairs, and another officer of the same rank.
As per the Punjab government, at the onset of every procurement season for rabi (wheat) and kharif (paddy), the Centre enters into an agreement with the state and promises to reimburse all charges along with the cost of the crop to the state.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a state government officer said, “Punjab makes huge expenditure on procuring foodgrains. Various departments are involved in procurement and we pay them salaries,” adding that since the state purchased foodgrains on behalf of the Centre, the latter was liable to reimburse the expenditure. Punjab also pointed it out that a delay in settling accounts invited penal interest. Last year, the outstanding CCL was to the tune of Rs 42,000 crore; it has now crossed Rs 43,800 crore, of which Punjab has submitted claims for Rs 28,000 crore.
About 8 lakh tonnes of premium basmati variety 1509 is expected to arrive in grain markets of the state, along with 137 lakh tonnes of the coarse variety. The 1509 variety, which used to fetch prices up to Rs 4,000 per quintal in the open market in previous seasons, is fetching around Rs 1,200-1,300 per quintal.
The Centre has already allowed Punjab to procure basmati 1509, along with the coarse variety, at the minimum support price (MSP) of Rs 1,450 per quintal. The Union consumer affairs, food and public distribution ministry has asked the Food Corporation of India (FCI) to accept parboiled rice from the 1509 variety.