(Gurminder Singh/HT)
(Gurminder Singh/HT)

Procurement gets off to a slow start in Punjab

WHEAT ARRIVAL ON DAY 1 Agencies purchase 3,645.5 tonne produce out of 8,213.5 tonnes brought to 252 mandis, most in state’s south-west
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh | By Gurpreet Singh Nibber/Vishal Rambani/Anil Sharma, Chandigarh
PUBLISHED ON APR 15, 2020 11:10 PM IST

Wheat arrival in the grain markets and purchase centres in Punjab was below par on the first day of procurement on Wednesday, with many citing uncertainty and fear among farmers in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic as the reasons behind the poor turnout of farmers.

Of the 8,213.5 tonnes of produce that arrived in 252 mandis, most in south-west Punjab, 3,645.5 tonnes was procured by agencies, officials said.

To limit crowding and ensure social distancing, the government is inviting a limited number of farmers through coupons, with permission to sell up to 50 quintals of wheat at their closest grain market.

The coupons will act as a curfew pass for unhindered movement of the farmers’ tractor-trailers. On the first day, only 6,290 coupons were issued in the state. With the process of issuing coupons still picking up pace, several sellers across the state complained that they could not reach the grain markets.

Gurjeet Singh, a farmer from Badesha village near Samrala town of Ludhiana district, went to the Khamano mandi in the morning to meet his arhtiyas (commission agents) to enquire as when he should bring his produce for sale.

“The crop I have sown on 12 acres of land is ready for harvesting. But the government wants us to keep it as long as we can even as we want to dispose it at the earliest. This is the dilemma every farmer is facing,” he said.

“We don’t have adequate storage space at home. Also, who would unload, load and then unload it again? It will be a cumbersome task. besides, the incentive the government has offered to farmers for holding back teir produce is only a promise,” added Gurjeet.

FARMERS FORCED TO TAKE BACK PRODUCE

Raghbir Singh of the nearby Ramgarh village was asked to take back his 70 quintals of produce he unloaded outside the office of an arhtiya. “I got a pass three days ago and was told to come today. Now, the market committee is forcing me to take back my produce as the moisture content in it is 12.4%, barely 0.4% more than the limit,” he said.

“The government has directed us to ensure social distancing is maintained in mandis. Since there is no facility of drying grain in the mandis, the farmers have to keep the produce at home as long as the permissible moisture limit is achieved,” Khamano market committee chairman Surinder Singh said.

“Those arhtiyas found defying government directions on maintain social distancing or helping farmers make out-of-turn sale would invite cancellation of their licences for the entire season,” said Surinder.

Around 5 kilometres from Khamano, the Sanghol mandi was yet to receive produce.

“It is not that we are not helping the farmers in drying wheat in the mandi yards, but we are short of labour. The wheat arrival is likely to pick up in a few days,” said additional chief secretary Viswajeet Khanna, who heads the state-level committee on harvest and procurement.

NO FARMER TURNS UP AT MAJHA MANDIS

Not even a single farmer brought produce to the grain markets in Majha region on Wednesday. The farmers and officials of the agriculture department and Punjab mandi board said the delay in the arrival of the crop was due to moisture in the grains due to the recent rain.

Officials of the four border districts of Majha region - Tarn Taran, Amritsar, Gurdaspur and Pathankot – said the produce is likely to start arriving in the mandis from April 20 onwards.

“Most of the farmers have not started harvesting due to moisture in the crop. The pace of arrival of wheat will pick up after April 20,” said Sarwan Singh Pandher, secretary, Kisan Sangharsh Committee, Punjab.

JALANDHAR, HOSHIARPUR MARKETS GET NO PRODUCE

Also, not many farmers turned up at the grain markets in the Doaba region comprising Jalandhar, Kapurthala, SBS Nagar and Hoshiarpur districts.

In SBS Nagar district, wheat arrived in only two grain markets of Balachaur sub-division. Produce of 12 farmers was purchased.

In Kapurthala district, 105 tonne wheat arrived in two grain markets of Sultanpur Lodhi and Bholath, of which 30 tonne was purchased, said an official.

No produce had arrived in Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur districts.

NEGLIGIBLE ARRIVAL IN SOUTH MALWA

Wheat procurement at various centres in south Malwa districts remained symbolic on Wednesday. In Bathinda, only one farmer arrived with his crop whereas nearly 3,000 coupons were issued to farmers in the district.

Only two farmers arrived with their produce in Mansa.

Moga did not witness any wheat arrival while the Fazilka administration did not issue any token to farmers. Faridkot witnessed wheat sale by 75 farmers.

“For Thursday and Friday, we have issued 20,000 and 41,000 passes. Things will be streamlined in a few days,” additional secretary (mandi board) said HS Brar.

(Inputs by Vishal Joshi and Gagandeep Singh in Bathinda and Jalandhar)

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