With paddy prices shooting up, the impact on the open market rice in the State is likely to be severe.
The century-old Manachanallur paddy hulling industry, with about 40 hulling units, once considered the supplier of rice to the entire State, is in tears as paddy arrivals are poor.
M. Chinnasamy, president of the Tiruchi District Rice Mill Owners and Paddy, Rice Dealers Association, points out that the price of paddy which was Rs.15 a kg last year has now shot up to Rs.23.50. “Old paddy which was selling at about Rs.850 a bag (of 60 kg) is now quoted around Rs.1,500.”
During the current month alone, he says that there has been a steep hike. Paddy which was selling at Rs.19.50 a kg on New Year Day, is now quoted around Rs.24 to 25 per kg. “Never in the history of Manachanallur have we seen such a spurt in prices,” some paddy dealers said.
Even the “bold” variety like ADT 37, normally used only for idli as it is considered the lowest in quality, is selling at Rs.1,100 per bag. Thus even this quality of rice costs Rs.32 per kg at the wholesale level. “The last rate of paddy in Tamil Nadu last year was Rs.14 a kg. Now it is Rs.21 a kg.”
“Paddy price has become what was once the price of rice,” lamented a hulling unit owner.
Trade sources said even new rice is quoted above Rs.35 a kg while the old rice of medium variety above Rs.40. Open market price of Ponni variety has already touched Rs.46 a kg. “It is likely to go up further,” they assert.
“With hardly any arrivals from the delta, we are not sure whether we will have even 25 per cent of our requirement from Tamil Nadu,” hullers say. “More than 75 per cent of our requirements are met by Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. Of course, there are arrivals from States like Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal. Apart from quality of the paddy, which is slightly inferior, transport charges are very high for such paddy.”
They point out that by this time harvest should have started in the delta districts. Manachanallur used to receive at least 30 loads (200 bags each) a day during January-February. But the arrivals have been quite disappointing this year.
Besides, by the end of February most of the arrivals from other States would stop while the local arrivals would trickle in even after that.
Trade sources cited a number of reasons for the current predicament.
Apart from monsoon failure and the delta region getting hardly any water from the Cauvery, the wage component and also the fertilizer prices are contributing to such a steep hike.
While the harvest itself is very poor, a number of big farmers are not ready to release their stocks. The arrivals from Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka are not as usual. Hence, the prices in Tamil Nadu will totally depend upon the arrivals from other States, sources added.