Govt. agrees to bring down rice procurement target from 5 lakh tonnes to 2.5 lakh tonnes

Rice mill owners on Wednesday called off their indefinite strike after the State government agreed to bring down the procurement target of levy rice from 5 lakh tonnes to 2.5 lakh tonnes.

The decision was announced after a marathon meeting Ministers Shamanur Shivashankarappa, T.B. Jayachandra, H.S. Mahadeva Prasad and Dinesh Gundu Rao had with representatives of the Karnataka State Rice Mill Owners’ Association.

Owners of 1,800 rice mills in the State had begun a strike on Monday in protest against the government’s decision to procure 5 lakh tonnes of rice to meet the requirements of the flagship Anna Bhagya scheme.

‘Resolved amicably’

Mr. Jayachandra told presspersons after the meeting that the issue had been resolved amicably with the mill owners. “We have agreed to procure 2.5 lakh tonnes of rice a year at Rs. 2,400 a quintal. The millers have agreed to give us 1.5 lakh tonnes by March-end and the remaining 1 lakh within September. This was decided after a detailed discussion with the mill owners,” the Minister said.

Mr. Jayachandra said the outcome of the settlement was a win-win situation for both the government and the miller owners.

“We have agreed to allow them to stock paddy for two months, which was permitted only for 30 days earlier. They are now asking permission to stock paddy for three months and we have assured them that we will consider this,” he added.

Following complaints that the rice mill owners were indulging in bulk purchase of rice — meant for Anna Bhagya scheme — on the black market from people who were running the public distribution shops, the Minister said the mill owners had clarified that they would not encourage it.

D.G. Shantana Gowda, president of the Karnataka State Rice Mill Owners’ Association, said following the meeting the owners had called off their strike. “We are satisfied with the decision. Although we had asked for a higher price, the government has fixed it at Rs. 2,400 [a quintal] and we have agreed to it,” he said.

Mr. Dinesh Gundu Rao said, “Although the government had decided to increase the procurement of rice for the Anna Bhagya, the scheme does not depend on this procurement.

“The problem is because most mill owners grow sona masuri variety of rice in Karnataka. We cannot give this variety under the Anna Bhagya scheme and it is not possible for the mill owners also to allow for the procurement of this rice. The minimum support price of Rs. 2,400 has been fixed keeping in mind the interests of farmers and the mill owners. Although we are buying rice at a cheaper rate from Chhattisgarh for the scheme, the rates may increase as the minimum support price has been increased there also,” he explained.

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