The Bihar government is planning to rope in national agriculture cooperative marketing federation (Nafed) to facilitate procurement of pulses and maize on the minimum support price (MSP) from the farmers in Bihar.
Nafed had discontinued procurement of maize, pulses and oilseeds from farmers after the state government froze its account operations, following the tax dispute in procurement of paddy on behalf of the food corporation of India (FCI) in 2012.
Secretary, food and consumer protection department, Vinay Kumar has led several rounds of talks with Nafed officials in this regard. The department is likely to send a proposal to the Central government soon to finalise the procurement modalities. “The department aims to launch procurement of pulses from this season, if everything goes as per the plan,” said the secretary.
Nafed branch manager, Patna, Yatendra Singh said that the federation was capable of procuring farm produce from the farmers, if the state government demonstrated its willingness. “As per the talks with the state government officials, Nafed is readying its network to purchase maize and pulses in the upcoming season,” said Singh.
Nafed has supplied about 1.36 lakh metric tonne of chana dal (split chickpea lentils) to Bihar government under Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyann Ann Yojna (PMGKAY) for its distribution to the poor during the pandemic phase last year.
Officials said that the farmers of Bihar were estimated to produce more than five lakh MT of pulses, despite decreasing acreage of farming area. With procurement of pulses discontinued for nearly a decade, farmers have shifted focus on cultivation of MSP assured crops like paddy and wheat. Currently, pulses are being grown on 4.39 lakh hectare as compared to 10.83 lakh hectare in 1991-92.
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Maize growing farmers of the state are also likely to benefit from the Nafed’s expected re-launch of its procurement. Last year, farmers of the Seemanchal region were compelled to sell maize at throw away prices against the MSP of ₹1850 per quintal. Sporadic protests were made across the region by the farmers against the state government’s apathy towards their demand for maize procurement.
An agricultural activist Mahendra Yadav, who had filed a petition in the Patna high court to restart procurement of maize, attributed the state government’s readiness to engage with Nafed for procurement of farm produce, other than paddy and wheat, to the ongoing farmers’ protest in the national capital.
“Farmers had explored all options, from democratic protests to legal recourse, to sell their maize on the MSP, but the food and consumer protection department officials refused to take any notice,” said Yadav.