While the price of rice in Tamil Nadu is unlikely to fall in the near future, its upward march may be halted if rains were to lash the peninsula within the next three weeks.
M. Chinnasamy, State general secretary of the Federation of Rice Mills Owners’ Associations and Rice Merchants’ Associations, points out that Tamil Nadu used to be a deficit State, to the extent of 30 per cent, “even at the best of times with bountiful monsoon and excellent yields in the delta and other river basins such as the Tamiraparani”.
This year it will be a daunting task for anyone to keep the prices under check, he says, pointing out that the price of paddy from Karnataka, one of the major suppliers to Tamil Nadu, has shot up from Rs.15 to Rs.22 per kg. A 60 kg bag of paddy works out to Rs.1,320 and, when converted into rice, a 75 kg bag will cost Rs.2,800-2,900 even in wholesale.
G. Sriraman, Tiruchi district vice-president of the Rice Mill Owners’ Association, says the price of coarse varieties of paddy used to be around Rs.600 a bag and that of finer varieties, Rs.750.
“Now that the government itself has fixed procurement price of Rs.750 per bag, we will be able to procure finer varieties only at Rs.1,200 a bag. Karnataka used to provide 200 lorries to 400 lorry loads of paddy (15,000 tonnes to 18,000 tonnes) a day. This year, the inflow from that State has tapered off. Andhra Pradesh, which used to dispatch at least 150 to 200 lorries to Chennai, does not send even a handful now.”
Puliyur Nagarajan, vice-president of the Tiruchi District Civil Supplies Hulling Agents Association, points out that merchants in Tamil Nadu are in no position to fix the price of rice because it is the Bangalore market which controls it.
“Apart from producing finer varieties, the Karnataka merchants, especially those from Tumkur, procure substantially from Tamil Nadu, hull the same and send it back to Tamil Nadu. This year we do not have adequate stocks,” he laments. The impact of the loss of kuruvai is rarely felt in the open market, they say, as what is procured then is only the second quality and rarely the finer varieties. But, the loss of cultivation during the summer season, due to poor storage in tanks and also power cut, has added to the woes.
Mr. Chinnasamy is certain that the prices will not fall. However, they might stabilise by January if the samba harvest is good. Besides, by that time, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka arrivals would have started. However, Mr. Sriraman says most of the merchants are on the horns of a dilemma whether to go in for substantial purchase paying higher prices.