Poor paddy procurement adds to Bihar farmers’ woes

February 18th, 2011 - 12:41 pm ICT by IANS  

By Imran Khan
Patna, Feb 18 (IANS) Surinder Mahato is a worried man. A small farmer on the outskirts of Bihar’s capital Patna, he laboured throughout last year’s drought to ensure that his farm’s output of rice was not affected. But he now stares in distress at the stacks of paddy lying in his hut.”I am waiting to sell my crop, but due to the government negligence, I am forced to sell at throwaway prices to local traders,” he said.

Central and state agencies have procured just about 283,000 tonnes of paddy till date, way short of the target of 1.05 million tonnes. The Kharif season ends by the end of December, and procurement continues for another two to three months.

“In the last over three and a half months since the procurement season kicked off, the government agencies have made paddy procurement of only 283,000 tonnes, a poor record so far,” an official of Bihar’s agriculture department told IANS.

According to officials sources, government agencies procured less than one percent of total paddy procured in the country.

“About 25.4 million tonnes of paddy were procured across the country, but the share of Bihar is less than expected,” an official said.

The state made a record paddy procurement of more than 1.1 million tonnes last year.

The situation is particularly grave for farmers as the state suffered its second consecutive drought in 2010, and farmers were looking at the procurement season to recover their investments.

In August, the Bihar government declared all the 38 districts drought-hit due to rainfall deficit of nearly 25 percent. Inadequate rains had severely hit paddy sowing and transplantation in most districts except Araria, East and West Champaran.

Bihar normally produces 4.5-5 million tonnes of paddy every year. This year’s output is likely to be less than three million tonnes, while last year it was 3.4 million tonnes.

Even this reduced output is far more than what the agencies are procuring.

Selling in the open market is not a lucrative option for farmers as not only are the market rates lower than the price given by the government, it leaves them at the mercy of local traders and middlemen.

“We have failed to understand officials’ strategy,” said Mukesh Rai, a farmer in Rohtas district.

The Food Corporation of India has procured 45,000 tonnes of paddy, Bihar State Co-Operative Marketing Union Limited 100,000 tonnes, and National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Limited (Nafed) 60,000 tonnes.

“If the slow paddy procurement rate till date this year is anything to go by, Bihar is almost sure to lag behind,” the official said.

Compared to Bihar, the government agencies in Punjab, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Orissa and Uttar Pradesh have made a record paddy procurement of 23.1 million tonnes till date.

(Imran Khan can be contacted at imran.k@ians.in)

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