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Punjab rejects FCI’s proposal to restrict paddy procurement

FCI had suggested state govt to limit amount of procurement per acre and ask farmers to sell remaining produce in open market
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh | By Gurpreet Singh Nibber, Chandigarh
PUBLISHED ON NOV 29, 2019 11:41 PM IST

The Punjab government has rejected the Centre’s proposal suggesting it to limit the amount of paddy procurement per acre and asking the farmer to sell remaining produce in open market.

The proposal was a cause of concern for all stakeholders, including the government, farmers, farm economists and five procurement agencies in the state.

The state government has rejected the proposal at the onset, saying it will worsen the scenario.

A recent communique from Food Corporation of India (FCI), a central agency, though also keeps the scope open for supporting farmers by paying the differential of the minimum support price (MSP) of what is sold to traders.

An FCI official, seeking anonymity, said it is to be seen how soon the proposal will be implemented.

Five state agencies procure wheat and paddy from the state farmers in rabi and kharif seasons and hand it over to the FCI, for which state is paid in advance in form of cash credit limit (CCL).

The proposal was mooted to deal with the issue of stubble burning and to free foodgrain storage space, which is overflowing with rice and wheat stocks of the previous two seasons.

As an average 20 million tonne of paddy straw is generated in a season, out of which only 5 million tonne is consumed in biomass plant and the rest is vulnerable to be burnt. This season, the number of burning cases touched 50,500.

“The FCI proposal is not suited to Punjab as it has many impracticalities. The quantum of paddy produced in the state is huge and it can’t be purchased by private traders,” said an official of food and civil supplies department.

Speaking on the enormity of the procurement process, he said 163 lakh tonne paddy was procured this season, for which Rs 29,100 crore was disbursed to the state farmers.

“This proposal has no meaning. It will breed corruption and chaos in the procurement system,” said farm economist Sardara Singh Johal.

“How can the government ascertain that a farmer has sold his produce to a private trader at a certain price as on paper, he can claim more price to take benefit of higher differential cost?, asked Johal.

Asked about the relevance of the FCI proposal, principal secretary, food and civil supplies, KAP Sinha said, “Those who have mooted the proposal can explain it better. The state government has rejected it.”



Reacting on the proposal, Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader BS Rajewal said, “This is first step towards running away from the responsibility of procuring foodgrains. The Centre is piling up stocks to get rid of the procurement, but they have to carry on with the procurement otherwise it would be a very chaotic situation in Punjab and Haryana”.

He said the Centre should give crop holiday to farmers instead of restricting paddy procurement.

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