Breather for millers on supply of fortified rice as state, FCI to draw up timeline
Chandigarh Punjab’s rice millers have got a breather, with the Centre asking the Food Corporation of India (FCI) and the state government to work out a ‘comfortable’ time-line to supply 7 lakh tonne fortified rice into Central pool. Rice is fortified by adding a micronutrient powder that sticks to grains in layers with a vitamin and mineral mix in form of a coating.
Millers had been worried after a communiqué from the FCI on February 16, asking the millers to deliver fortified rice and start delivery from March 1. Following this, rice millers from the state had Union food and public distribution minister Piyush Goyal on Friday seeking relaxations.
“There are 15 fortified rice plants across the country. It is extremely difficult for Punjab rice milers to procure fortified rice and supply it back into the pool. State’s millers do not have the required machinery so the condition of fortified rice be made applicable from this year’s paddy season,” rice milers have said in their written communication to the Centre.
Bal Krishan Bali, president of a section of rice millers association in Punjab, said most rice mills in the state are small-scale units and do not have the funds for installing the machinery that costs between ₹5 lakh and ₹25 lakh. He added that rice millers were ready to make changes, but some handholding from the government was required.
Bali added that at the meeting with Goyal, they had offered that the bigger rice mill units capable and interested in setting up fortified rice units be allowed to do so with a fresh deadline. An agreement be signed for supply of fortified rice for a period of five years was also proposed. He demanded that arrangement be made for payment of delivered rice after a week, as it involved cost.
Rice millers also demanded arrangement for additional space for storage of custom milled rice as in the current season 135 lakh tone rice is expected to come for storage.
“The procurement of rice has been slowed, leading to a glut in the state and lack of storage space for other crops. We requested for additional space and the Centre has agreed to resolve the issue,” claimed Bali.
ARHTIYAS ON STRIKE FROM MARCH 10
A section of rice millers of state led by RS Cheema has announced indefinite strike from March 10 against the Centre’s move to make a direct payment to the farmers bypassing the arhtiyas. The Centre has sought land records from farmers for crop payment ahead of upcoming rabi procurement. “The state government is hand in glove with the Centre, as it is not taking up issue with the Centre for relaxation,” added Cheema, claiming that 28,500 arhtiyas in all 249 perennial mandis and 2,000 procurement centres were unanimous on the issue.