India File

Telangana facing a problem of plenty in paddy

K V Kurmanath | Updated on April 21, 2020

Farmers with their produce at a procurement centre in Telangana Telangana Rythu Sangham   -  Telangana Rythu Sangham

Farmers have reaped a bumper rabi harvest of 1 crore tonnes of paddy

Telangana, like many other major cereal producing States in the country, is facing a problem of plenty. Supported by irrigation facilities from the newly constructed water projects and aided by an extended monsoon last year, farmers in the State have reaped a bumper harvest of one crore tonnes of paddy in the rabi season.

Lockdown restrictions and the closure of market yards from the last week of March were seen as a challenge for farmers to sell their produce.

However, the Telangana government has decided to buy all of the paddy (and maize) at an estimated cost of ₹30,000 crore.

“We will buy every single grain that you harvested. And, we will buy it in your village,” Telangana Chief Minister, K Chandrashekar Rao, has assured the farmers.

The good communicator that he is, the Chief Minister has cautioned them against bringing the produce to the market yards in towns and cities. He also warned them against mobbing procurement centres by gathering there in large numbers.

Consequent to his announcement, the Civil Supplies Department, the nodal agency for paddy procurement, has opened about 6,500 paddy procurement centres (PPCs) as against 3,500 centres last year. Some of the PPCs are managed by GCC (Girijan Cooperative Corporation) and SERP (Society for Elimination of Rural Poverty).

In order to avoid mobs and ensure ‘physical distancing’ norms at the procurement centres, the Department has roped in about 5,000 Agriculture Extension Officers (AEOs) who were appointed after the formation of Telangana. “The AEOs will assess the harvesting status and positioning of paddy in a particular village and give the farmers ‘chits’, indicating the time and date on which they can take their produce to the procurement centre,” a top Civil Supplies Department official said.

“We started procurement about 10 days ago and have purchased five lakh tonnes of paddy so far at ₹1,830 a quintal,” he said.

Arrivals to peak in May

The Department expects maximum arrivals in May. “We will require 22 crore gunny bags for the whole stock. We have about 12 crore bags with us and another 2-2.5 crore bags with ration shops and millers. We can bridge the gap by the time we need them next month,” he said.

“They have set up 3-4 procurement centres in a mandal and are asking us to transport the produce there at a scheduled time,” A Chandru, a farmer at Bommanapalli in Kothagudem district, said. The farmers are yet to receive the money. The procurement centres will pool the produce and send it to millers after getting enough produce to be carried in a truck. “They said it will take 10-12 days before we get the money in our accounts,” Chandru said.

The Chief Minister had hinted that payments may be delayed and asked the farmers not to lose sleep over getting the money in their accounts. “It may be delayed but it will surely be deposited,” he had said.

There, however, is no additional advantage in terms of cost or convenience when compared to last year. “It is almost like last year’s process. Only, I’m assured of selling the produce during difficult days,” said farmer Chandru.

M Shobhan, Joint Secretary of Telangana Rythu Sangham, said there was lack of awareness (on government’s assurance that it will buy all of the produce) among farmers in the hinterland. "I have visited four purchasing centres. There is a shortage of gunny bags," he said. The government has given the mandate of procuring maize to Telangana State Co-operative Marketing Federation (TS Markfed). It has earmarked ₹3,200 crore for this purpose.

However, the government has excluded commercial crops from the purview of its procurement process, leaving chilli and turmeric farmers in the lurch.

Published on April 21, 2020

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