Assam State Kishan Sabha has called for a statewide protest on December 30

As Assam is looking at surplus production of about 10 lakh MT of paddy, the Assam State Kishan Sabha (ASKS) has called for a statewide protest on December 30 to mount pressure on the State Government and the Food Corporation of India (FCI) to procure more paddy from the farmers in the State to prevent distress selling.

Assam Agriculture Minister Nilamani Sen Deka told The Hindu that paddy production for the current year was poised to touch a record 55 lakh MT mark, due to surplus production. He said about 70 procurement centres had been set up by the Assam State Agricultural Marketing Board and the FCI to procure more paddy as compared to the previous years. The State government has fixed Minimum Support Price of Rs. 1,250 a quintal for coarse varieties and Rs. 1,280 a quintal for fine varieties.

ASKS Secretary Khemraj Chetri, however, alleged that the total targeted procurement by Agricultural Marketing Board and the FCI would be only around 80,000 MT. “This is too little and will lead to distress selling of paddy by the farmers at much lower prices than the minimum support price fixed by the State government,” he cautioned.

Mr. Chetri said even those farmers who do not produce marketable surplus go for selling paddy to meet their cash requirement for other purposes. “Normally such farmers knowing well that the paddy harvested by them will barely last or may not last the whole year to feed the entire family, want to sell off paddy as they need cash to meet their other household requirements. However, if they do not get the minimum support price, they will land in trouble. In absence of adequate official procurement at the minimum support price, the farmers are compelled to sell their paddy at much lower prices. Therefore, we are demanding that the State government should ensure that at least 10 lakh MT of paddy is procured from the farmers to prevent distress selling and ensuring that they get remunerative prices for hard work,” he added.

The peasants’ leader said ASKS would stage dharna at block level on December 30. He alleged that in some places the farmers had been selling paddy for less than Rs. 1,000 a quintal.

Mr. Deka said while private procurers go to villages, the farmers are required to bring paddy to procurement centres for procurement by the FCI or the Assam State Agricultural Marketing Board and in such a situation many farmers find it easier to sell it to the private procurers. He, however, claimed that in some area private paddy procurers had been procuring paddy at little higher price than the minimum support price fixed by the government for milling it and selling milled rice back to farmers to earn profits.