Until problems are overcome, there will be a shortage of the promised foodgrains

The State government’s plans of distributing wheat, jowar and ragi along with rice through the public distribution system from ration shops in select districts may be delayed by a few months as foodgrain stocks are not readily available.

The other reasons include people’s preference for jowar cultivated in the rabi season over kharif season. Further, officials are yet to put in place a system of procurement that is hassle-free and acceptable to farmers.

“To start with, we need 16,573 tonnes of wheat and 27,054 tonnes of jowar for the 13 north Karnataka districts; and 13,838 tonnes of wheat and 22,974 tonnes of ragi for distribution in the 18 south Karnataka districts, including Bangalore. But we don’t have the stocks,” a senior official of the Food and Civil Supplies Department told The Hindu. The only assured stocks are of over 1.5 lakh tones of rice, apart from a small quantity of wheat supplied by the Union government at subsidised prices.

Our interaction with scientists has revealed that residents of north Karnataka prefer jowar cultivated during the rabi season as the grains are bigger and whiter. The dry spell, with less humidity also brings a distinct taste to the grain. So, we need to wait till the rabi harvest at the end of January, the official said.

The third challenge is procurement. A team of experts constituted for the purpose has recommended three methods of procurement — buying from farmers at minimum support price, purchasing from the open market through tendering, or through a MoU from cooperatives. “We will have the first round of purchasing using all three methods before finalising on any one,” the officer said.

Gurunath Jantikar, president of the Karnataka State Federation of Souharda Cooperatives, says the government should decide to procure grains from producers’ cooperatives. “This will ensure that farm produce will get remunerative prices and empower farmers by getting them out of the clutches of middlemen. It will also strengthen the cooperative movement in the State,” he said. If they are assured of a minimum support price and an annual market, they can grow wings and become State-level institutions, he said.

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