Bihar raises wheat procurement target, sets May 31 deadline
The Bihar government aims to complete wheat procurement based on the minimum support price (MSP) by May 31 despite the process not having begun in the majority of districts.
With the aim to procure around 1 lakh MT (metric tonne) wheat, the food and consumer protection department last month asked the district authorities to start the procurement drive through primary agriculture cooperative societies (PACS) and Vyapar Mandals. However, it received a lukewarm response from the ground-level officials due to the ongoing Covid-19 crisis.
After complaints that farmers were being forced to sell their produce at ₹1,500 to ₹1,600 per quintal against the MSP of ₹1,975, secretaries of food and consumer protection, cooperatives and agriculture departments, held a meeting on Saturday and announced intensification of the procurement drive along with a substantial hike in the procurement target to 7 lakh MT against the previous target of 1 lakh MT announced last month.
Agriculture secretary N Sarawana Kumar said this year’s wheat production was estimated to be around 65 lakh MT, up by 10 lakh MT compared to last year. “The procurement has started from PACS and Vyapar Mandal outlets from across the state. The department has roped in ‘Krishi Salahkars’ to prepare the list of farmers in their areas, who are interested in selling their produce to the state government, and facilitate the process,” Singh said.
Bihar accounts for 5.7% of the total wheat production in the country. Statistics show that wheat has been cultivated in over 233,000 hectares in Bihar this year. According to the Central government’s records, the state government could produce only 5000 MT of wheat last year, which was less than 1% of the national production.
Food and consumer protection department secretary Vinay Kumar said farmers have benefitted from the government’s announcement to procure lentil and gram on the MSP. “The market price of pulses has jumped up since then,” he claimed.
Cooperative secretary Vandana Preyasi said the procurement process has been made flexible to reach the maximum number of farmers. “PACS and Vyapar Mandals have done record procurement of paddy this year, even as a district cooperative officer and four other department staff fell victim to Covid pandemic. All the personnel of procurement agencies have been asked to strictly adhere to Covid appropriate behaviour,” she added.