Traders stop purchase of poppy seeds due to policy paralysis
For the past 21 days the traders have stopped purchasing poppy seeds (posta dana) at the Neemuch mandi, leading to anger among the farmers, and a field day for poppy seeds imported from China and Turkey/Pakistan.
The traders’ move comes because the state government has not issued any fresh direction on cleaning of the posta seed ever since the state government repealed Section 8 and 10 of the NDPS Act which dealt with poppy husk (whose sale has been banned by the centre) and cleaning of poppy seeds.
When opium is extracted from the poppy bulb which contains the seeds, some of the opium seeps into the pod and forms a coating. Earlier, the excise department used to supervise the cleaning of the poppy seed where the black coated poppy seeds were separated from the other seeds. Incidentally, the black poppy seeds are sold at a much higher price because of the opium they contain.
Farmer Shankar Patidar says that he needed money urgently so he decided to sell his poppy seeds, but was shocked to learn that purchasing has stopped. “This is causing major problem for farmers. Government should solve it urgently.”
Says Poppy seed trader Sameep Choudhary, “Now the traders are afraid that if they buy the uncleaned poppy seed and clean it themselves, they might run foul on NDPS Act.” Ideally, the state government should have issued orders allowing cleaning of poppy seed under supervision, Choudhary said adding that Rajasthan government has issued such orders and poppy seed is being cleaned there under excise department’s supervision once a month.
Neemuch Mandi secretary R S Baghel said Neemuch is the biggest mandi for poppy seeds in the country and farmers from Rajasthan also used to come and sell their produce here. “We cannot force the traders to buy because their fear is genuine, but the mandi is losing a lot of revenue due to stoppage in poppy seed purchase,” Baghel said.
Every year anywhere between 12 to 15 thousand quintal of poppy seed is traded in the mandi and the government earns crores of rupees through sales tax, mandi tax and VAT. There are around 50,000 licensed opium farmers in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan who produce poppy seeds, which is mainly consumed in eastern India.
District excise officer, Bhimrao Vaidya said that since it is a policy matter, they are awaiting instruction from Bhopal. The collector Kaushalendra Vikram Singh said that he has sounded the government and a solution is being worked out.