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Procurement

Two weeks into paddy procurement in Punjab, farmers still waiting for payment

Delay would hamper sowing for rabi season. It will lead to borrowing money which will only add to our woes, they say

Amid the COVID-19 scare, 44-year old Gurpreet Singh from Tole Majra village with his paddy-laden tractor-trolley arrived at Kharar’s grain market in Punjab on a sunny day on Saturday — he seems content with the procurement arrangements at the ‘mandi’ (market yard). However, he, as many other farmers, is anxious about “timely payment” of produce purchased by government agencies.

“I brought 40 quintal paddy in the morning to the mandi here and by afternoon my produce was sold. I didn’t have to wait for long..everything was seamless. There’s no space crunch in the mandi nor labour shortage. However, my main concern is about receiving the payment. My ‘arthiya’ [commission agent] told me that I’ll get the payment at least 12-15 days later because the process of payments has not yet started from the government’s end,” said Mr. Gurpreet.

“I’ll get around ₹75,500 for the paddy that I had sold. But if I’ll get the payment after 15 days then it will create difficulties for me. I need to prepare my field for sowing of wheat for which I need money immediately. If my payment is delayed how will I plant my next crop? The government should make the payment within 3-4 days at the most after the crop is sold,” he said.

Mr. Gurpreet’s commission agent, who requested anonymity, said: “Till October 10, at least 30 farmers have sold paddy at the Minimum Support Price through me, but payment for none of them has been received from the government agencies. As far as I know, only three day ago the cash credit limit has been sanctioned by the RBI for making MSP payment. So, now I am hopeful that payments would start coming in from the ensuing week,” said the agent.

Expressing similar concern, Harbans Singh of Jandpur village said the delay in timely payment would hamper his sowing for rabi (winter) season. “I have to buy seeds and other things for wheat sowing, but if there’s a delay in the payment, which is quite evident, then I’ll have to borrow money from someone..It will only add to woes,” said Mr. Harbans, who had sown paddy in 17 acres.

Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had recently asked the Food and Civil Supplies department to ensure prompt lifting of the produce and release of payment within the stipulated time-frame of 72 hours. Paddy procurement commenced on September 27 due to early arrival of the crop this year owing to advance planting. The procurement operations would continue till November 30.

Till October 10, 23.11 lakh tonnes paddy has arrived in the ‘mandis’ across Punjab, of which 21.93 lakh tonnes has been procured by various agencies. Punjab is targeting procurement of 171 lakh tonnes in the ongoing season.

Kesar Singh, a farmer from Khanpur village, said procurement arrangements are far better this season in comparison to the wheat procurement in April-June. “The State government has increased the number of centres for crop’s purchase, which has reduced crowding. I have come with over 100 quintals and my commission agent has informed me that payment is expected to come in my account in the next 15 days..It’s a long wait,” said Mr. Kesar, who has planted paddy in close to 20 acres.

To ensure hassle-free and safe procurement amid COVID-19, the Punjab Mandi Board has notified over 4,200 purchase points for procurement of paddy. To avoid mass gatherings and ensure staggered procurement, the Mandi board has issued 7.71 lakh passes to farmers till October 10. Four state procurement agencies including Punjab Grains Procurement Corporation Ltd, Markfed, State Civil Supplies Corporation Ltd and State Warehousing Corporation besides the FCI are procuring paddy. The A grade paddy is being procured at the MSP of ₹1,888 per quintal.

Farmer outfits are also anguished about the delay in the payment. “The Central government should have asked the RBI to sanction the cash credit limit in September month itself. While the procurement started on September 27, the cash credit limit for Punjab was sanctioned on October 7. This reflects the indifferent attitude of the Central government towards farmers. They want to create hurdles in the MSP mechanism to eventually dismantle it. The State government is also to be blamed as it did not push for early sanctioning of the limit,” said Jagmohan Singh, general secretary, Bhartaiya Kisan Union (Dakaunda).

“With the cash credit limit now being sanctioned, the State government, through its agencies should immediately start making payments and keep its promise of releasing payment within 72 hours of crop’s purchase,” he said.

Food and Civil Supplies Minister Bharat Bhushan earlier this week said the cash credit limit amounting to ₹30,220.82 crore has been sanctioned for MSP payment.

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