Pilibhit: A delay in payment for procured paddy by government agencies here this season has added to farmers’ woes as they are yet to receive last harvesting season’s dues, which is to the tune of Rs 100 crore. Farmers are now facing acute liquidity crisis and many do not even have funds to buy inputs for the forthcoming rabi season for sowing crops like wheat, mustard and lentil.
According to norms, paddy payments must be transferred to a farmer’s bank account within 72 hours of procurement. However, this has not been followed either in the last harvesting season or now.
The cash-strapped farmers and their leaders have slammed both state as and central governments for failing to ensure payment on time while talking about reforms in the guise of the three new agrarian bills passed by Parliament.
“The BJP-led central and the state governments have grown completely apathetic towards safeguarding the interests of the farmers. The only solution lies then in protest by farmers. The government is using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to quell all protests,” said Manjit Singh, a farmer and state general secretary of the Rashtriya Lok Dal here.
According to official records of the district food and marketing department, a total of 1.56 lakh metric tons (MT) of paddy was procured in Pilibhit district from 24,449 farmers till the closing of November 20 through a network of 165 procurement centres of 11 purchase agencies. The procured paddy was valued at Rs 291.11 crore of which the arrears totalled Rs 112.89 crore.
Earlier, the procurement agencies had purchased 1.37 lakh MT of paddy till November 13, the last working day before Diwali holidays, valuing Rs 255.71 crore but owed farmers Rs 114.71 crore.
On being asked about the reason behind the backlog in payments, Avinash Jha, district food and marketing officer, in raising bills against the processed rice supplied to the Food Corporation of India (FCI) by the rice mills. “The FCI releases the payment to procurement agencies only against the invoiced stock of rice and the agencies make payment to farmers for their procured paddy out of this money. As the billing process from the part of procurement agencies is slow, it in turn adversely affects the payment to farmers.” said Jha.
The official records show that till the closing of November 20, the rice mills had been supplied 1.21 lakh MTs of paddy for custom milling. Of this, the mills delivered only 17,389 metric tons of CMR (custom milled rice) to FCI. Against this, the procurement agencies raised bills for merely 5,952 MTs of CMR and submitted them for payment to FCI.