Punjab, Haryana wheat arrivals to pick up after Baisakhi

April 5th, 2008 - 11:34 am ICT by admin  

By Jaideep Sarin
Chandigarh, April 5 (IANS) It has been four days since the government began the annual exercise to procure wheat. But farmers in Haryana and Punjab are yet to bring stocks in large quantities to the major grain markets in the two states. Even though organisations like the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) term it a bumper year for wheat crop and peg production 50 percent higher at 15 million tonnes, the response of the farmers has not really been encouraging.

While grain markets in Punjab have seen daily arrivals ranging between 200 and 250 tonnes, it has been 125-140 tonnes in Haryana since procurement by the central and the state governments started on April 1, officials said.

Most of it is also not freshly harvested but stored from last year’s season.

Punjab and Haryana contribute over 50 percent of food grain to the country’s buffer stock annually, the officials said, adding the situation should improve after a few days.

“The arrivals will increase only after Baisakhi (the harvest festival that falls April 13). Farmers believe it is auspicious to harvest their produce from this festival,” BKU Punjab president and former MP Bhupinder Singh Mann told IANS.

The crop is ready for harvesting in some areas of south Punjab, especially in districts like Sangrur, Mansa and Bathinda.

Procurement officers and farmers say the expected bumper crop can beat previous records. Procurement agencies, like the Centre’s Food Corporation of India (FCI) and state agencies, expect to lift 12.5 million tonnes of wheat this year.

“The bulk purchasing is done by government agencies. But in the last two-three years, private purchasers have made the market competitive,” said farmer Kirpal Singh of Landran near Mohali.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has allowed a limit of Rs.80.13 billion ($2 billion) for Punjab and Rs.26.96 billion for Haryana for payments to farmers.

“We have instructed procurement agencies to clear all cash payments of farmers within 72 hours of the purchase,” Haryana Deputy Chief Minister Chander Mohan said.

There are over 1,600 designated markets in Punjab and nearly 400 in Haryana for the sale of wheat.

Farmers are being offered an increased minimum support price (MSP) of Rs.1,000 per quintal compared to Rs.750 per quintal last year. But private purchasers are offering better prices, in the range of Rs.1,100 to Rs.1,500 per quintal.

The FCI had recently expressed apprehension that farmers might not bring their produce to grain markets in the two states and would like to sell to private buyers and directly to other states at higher prices.

“This is a matter of concern and both Punjab and Haryana will stand to lose if this happens,” FCI Managing Director Alok Sinha said recently.

The central government recently banned the sale of wheat by farmers to private buyers to ensure that the state-run agencies meet their targets and do not force the central government to import wheat from abroad at over Rs.1,600 per quintal.

The BKU and farmers are opposing the government order saying that farmers are being exploited.

“This step is not good for a democracy. Farming needs liberalisation and not an economic blockade. Why does the government not do it with any other business or trade? Why are farmers being exploited?” asked Mann.

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