Food Minister E.V.Velu and Food Secretary Swaran Singh turned teachers at a meeting of hulling agents here on Tuesday.
“Why is the quality of Punjab rice better than that of Tamil Nadu's rice?” asked Mr. Singh.
The inputs remained the same if not better, the work that went in was the same. Then why was it that Tamil Nadu finally got poorer quality of rice than Punjab?
He was telling hulling agents this because the Food Department did not want to bring in rice form Punjab when Tamil Nadu had an acclaimed rice bowl right in the centre of the State, Thanjavur.
Silence followed. Then one of the 250 hulling agents cleared his throat and gave a long list of woes, including problems with paddy reaching them at regular intervals, power problem and manpower shortage.
Mr. Velu asked if there was anyone in the audience who had visited other States. A few people said they had.
He asked them if any State in the country was free from power outages.
He asserted that even with all these problems, other States were producing better quality of rice to be distributed through PDS shops.
Mr. Velu and Mr. Singh listed ways to improve profits once newer technologies were in place. Technology and adoption of advanced techniques held the key, Mr. Velu said, adding that none of these took too much investment.
Technical experts then took over to explain what technologies work best with which kind of paddy. At the end of it all, it seemed like the hulling agents would make the switch to give better quality of rice.
“Most of them have promised to take a re-look at their practices,” Mr. Velu said. “We will insist on better quality rice from them.”
The 476 approved hulling agents in the State form the backbone of the input component of the PDS.
Once the Direct Procurement Centres collect paddy from farmers, the Civil Service Corporation sends it to the hulling agents.
The agreement with the hulling agents is that they should return 67 per cent in weight of the quantity they take.
The meeting of hulling agents is being held for the first time in over two years.