It has been about seven days since the official procurement of wheat started on paper, but farmers are still waiting for the procurement agencies and the officials concerned to enter the grain markets of the district. While officials say that procurement has been delayed to higher moisture content, farmers term it only an excuse.
"We have been sitting in the grain market for over five days as we had come to know that the procurement was going to start from April 10, but so far no official of the procurement agencies or any other official from the district administration has visited us. Even politicians hug us when they want votes, but now no one is bothering about us," said Gurcharan Singh and Gurbachan Singh, two farmers from Pipli village.
"The government has badly failed on the crop procurement front. It is almost killing farming. Officials of government agencies should come to the spot to check moisture in the crop, but nobody has come for this purpose so far. If the moisture content is within the permissible limits, the crop should be procured. I unloaded my produce here on Thursday, but nobody has even checked it for moisture content," claimed Tehal Singh, a farmer from Dallewal village of Faridkot.
"The produce is procured but, after a lot of harassment to farmers every time," said Tehal Singh. Even in Faridkot, no procurement has taken place though wheat started arriving in the market on Sunday.
"The farmers are now bringing their produce to the grain market but it has been lying here unsold. The market officials visit and say that it has moisture content higher that the permissible 12%. In days to come, the procurement will be at its peak and it will lead to a glut in the market. If the Union government can relax the norm of moisture content and raise its limit from 12% to 14%, Punjab can also do the same. It could solve all the problem of farmers," said Mohinder Bansal, a commission agent from Faridkot.
"No procurement has taken place in the Kotkapura market, where about 50,000 bags of wheat have arrived. Though the moisture content could be a problem with some produce, yet, in my opinion, about 30 to 40% of the produce could be bought as it is fit for procurement," said a commission agent from Kotkapura, wishing not to be quoted.
"If procurement is started tomorrow, it should be on a large scale instead of a formality," said Balinder Singh, a farmer from Siaian Wala village.
Besides farmers, even labour contractors are at the receiving end due to the delayed procurement season. "I engaged 15 labourers for procurement three days at `400 per day per head. While there is no procurement, I have to pay them out of my pocket. Besides the daily wages, I have to pay them for tea and meals," said Gabbar Singh, a labour contractor in Faridkot.
"The procurement will start from tomorrow as weather has cleared now. The higher moisture content was the reason for delay in procurement. All arrangements have now been made," said Kulbir Singh Matta, district mandi officer (DMO), Faridkot.
Deputy commissioner of Faridkot Mohammad Tayyab could not be contacted as he said he was in a meeting with senior officers. Jaspreet Singh Kahlon, district food and supply controller (DFSC), Faridkot, disconnected the call when this reporter tried to talk to him.