Procurement gets off to a slow start in Punjab

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Published on Apr 15, 2020 11:45 PM IST
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CHANDIGARH: Wheat arrivals in the grain markets and purchase centres of Punjab were nearly negligible on the first day of procurement on Wednesday amid a sense of uncertainty and fear among farmers about the Covid-19 pandemic.

Of the 8,213.5 tonnes of produce that arrived in the state’s 252 mandis, or grain markets, mostly in south-west Punjab, 3,645.5 tonnes were procured by government agencies, officials said.

Gurjeet Singh, a farmer from Badesha village near Samrala town of Ludhiana district, went to the Khamano mandi on Wednesday morning to meet his commission agents and find out when he should bring his produce for sale.

“The crop I have sown on 12 acres of land is ready for harvesting. But the government wants us to keep it as long as we can even as we want to dispose of it at the earliest. This is the dilemma every farmer is facing,” Gurjeet Singh said. “We don’t have adequate storage space at home. Also who would unload, load and then unload again. It will be a cumbersome task.”

Raghbir Singh of the nearby Ramgarh village was asked to take back the 70 quintals of produce he unloaded outside the office of a commission agent. “I got a pass three days ago and was told to come today. Now, the market committee is forcing me to take back my produce as the moisture content in it is 12.4%, barely 0.4% more than the limit,” he said.

Khamano market committee chairman Surinder Singh said the government had directed the committee to ensure social distancing is maintained at the market to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease.

“Since there is no facility of drying grain in the mandis, the farmers have to keep the produce at home as long as the permissible moisture limit is achieved,” he said.

“Those arhtiyas {commission agents} found defying government directions on maintain social distancing or helping farmers make out-of-turn sale would invite cancellation of their licences for the entire season,” Surinder Singh added.

Not even a single farmer brought his produce to the grain markets in Majha region on Wednesday. Farmers and officials of the agriculture department and the Punjab mandi board said the delay in the arrival of the crop was due to the presence of moisture in the grains because of recent rains.

Officials in the four border districts of the Majha region - Tarn Taran, Amritsar, Gurdaspur and Pathankot – said the produce was likely to start arriving in the mandis from April 20.

“Most of the farmers have not started harvesting due to moisture in the crop. The pace of arrival of wheat will pick up after April 20,” said Sarwan Singh Pandher, secretary of the Kisan Sangharsh Committee, Punjab.

Wheat procurement in south Malwa districts was negligible on Wednesday. In Bathinda, only one farmer arrived with his crop. Two two farmers arrived with their wheat in Mansa. Moga did not witness any wheat arrivals. In Faridkot, 75 farmers sold their wheat crop.

In neighbouring Haryana, few farmers brought their crop to the mandis on the first day of mustard procurement in Bhiwani, Jind, Dadri and Mahendergarh districts on Wednesday.

Farmers’ union leader Balbir Singh Takhan, who visited Bhiwani’s Behal Mandi, said, “Many farmers failed to turn up as they did not receive the government’s message asking them to bring their produce to the mandis.”

A farmer, Ram Chander of Dadri’s Ranila village, said he had brought 40 quintals of mustard to the grain market but was still waiting to sell it. Amit Sangwan, a farmer from Bhiwani’s Mitthi village, fared better. He said he had brought 40 quintals of mustard to the mandi and a local sarpanch procured his produce at 4,425 per quintal.

Hariyawas sarpanch and Sidhanwa procurement centre in-charge Sunil Sheoran said, “We bought mustard from 10 farmers in two shifts. We will put all our efforts to purchase farmers’ produce even with limited resources. The farmers covered their faces and maintained social distancing at the mandi.”

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