Centre orders early procurement of paddy in Punjab, Haryana at MSP
The government has targeted to procure 31% of total paddy from Haryana and Punjab. It has targeted to procure 113 lakh tonnes of rice from Punjab and 44 lakh tonnes from Haryana during the kharif procurement season.Updated: Sep 27, 2020, 02:42 IST
The Union government has ordered early procurement of paddy in Punjab and Haryana at minimum support prices, a move widely seen as being aimed at reassuring agitating farmers about the sanctity of the procurement system through notified market yards run by agricultural produce market committees (APMC).
Harvests of paddy, the key summer-sown staple, have begun arriving at mandis, or APMC markets in Punjab and Haryana, prompting the government to start the procurement process through the Food Corporation of India, a government order said on Saturday. In other states, procurement of paddy will begin on October 1, it added.
Interestingly, protests against the recently passed farm reform bills have been the most intense in these two states.
“Agencies including the Food Corporation of India are in a state of readiness for smoothly undertaking procurement operations,” a government notification said.
“In view of early arrival of paddy in the ‘mandis’ of Haryana and Punjab, Government of India has approved the commencement of procurement operations for paddy/rice immediately in both these states from today i.e. with effect from 26th September, 2020 to ensure that farmers are facilitated in selling their produce at Minimum Support Price (MSP) expeditiously,” the notification added.
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has pushed three farm bills through Parliament to deregulate the trade in agricultural commodities. The Opposition has accused the government of passing the controversial farm reforms in a haste without scrutiny of a parliamentary select panel.
Farmers on Friday blocked roads and rail lines in protest against the bills. The reforms will replace a socialist-era regime that required farmers to sell their crops to licensed middlemen at state-run APMC market yards.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called the bills “historic”, insisting that freer trade will benefit farmers by allowing better price discovery in newer tax-free markets, where they will be able to engage with buyers outside the APMC system.
The reforms have stoked anxieties among farmers — particularly in the food-bowl states of Punjab and Haryana — about whether the state-owned Food Corporation of India will continue to buy agricultural products at minimum support prices set by the government.
The government has targeted to procure 31% of total paddy from Haryana and Punjab. It has targeted to procure 113 lakh tonnes of rice from Punjab and 44 lakh tonnes from Haryana during the kharif procurement season. Total rice procurement target has been set at 495.37 lakh tonnes for the whole country for the 2020-21 kharif season.
This is the second procurement-related move taken by the government to reassure protesting farmers in recent days. On September 21, it made an advance announcement of MSPs for several winter-grown crops.
Economists have said liberalising farm trade is critical to boosting productivity and bring private investment in post-harvest infrastructure to increase rural incomes.
“The broader reforms are aimed at corporatisation of the agriculture sector, which need not be a bad word. Ultimately, there has to be a market clearing mechanism for agricultural trade. The government clearly wants to send out a message that, despite the reforms, MSPs and the procurement mechanism will remain intact,” said R Mani of the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University.