Dharam Singh, 47, was forced to sell over 20 quintals of his mustard seeds produce this year to a commission agent at the local grain market at a price far less than the government's Minimum Support Price (MSP) of ₹4,000 per quintal due to the delay in the procurement process.
It has been more than a week since the Haryana government announced to start procurement at MSP to prevent distress sale by farmers, but HAFED, the government agency, is yet to start procurement at Farrukhnagar grain market.
Mr. Singh, who owns two acres of land, said that he too had read in the newspaper about HAFED setting up a purchase centre at Farrukhnagar grain market this year, but the process of procurement was yet to start.
“Thanks to favourable weather conditions, I had a bumper crop this year. But the price being offered by the commission agent is around ₹700-₹800 per quintal less than the MSP. It effectively means a loss of ₹14,000-16,000 for me. It is a huge amount for a small farmer like me,” said Mr. Singh.
Commission agent Sunder Singh Yadav said that the mustard was bought at ₹3,000-₹3,500 per quintal, depending upon the moisture percentage.
Compared to just 2,763 quintals of mustard reaching Farrukhnagar mandi in March (from March 1-20) last year, a total of 11,989 quintals of the crop has already reached the grains market this year in the same period.
“More than 50% of the mustard crop in the area will be sold by the time the government starts procurement. The MSP fixed by the government is adequate, but the question remains as to how many farmers will actually benefit from it,” said Prahlad, a resident of Sultanpur village.
Pramod Yadav, another farmer from Sultanpur, explained that farmers could not afford to store the produce due to space crunch and needed immediate cash.
“If I sell at the price being offered by the commission agents, I will end up making just ₹15,000 this year. I can afford to sow only one crop a year due to saline ground water. There is no alternate source of irrigation,” the 34-year-old said.
Though the villages in the Farrukhnagar block along with several neighbouring districts such as Nuh, Rewari and Mahendragarh are among the leading producers of mustard, the purchase centre at Farrukhnagar has been set up after a span of 14 years.
Virender Yadav, chairman of the market committee at Farrukhnagar, said that he had written to the authorities demanding a purchase centre in January, but the sanction came just a day ago.
“This market caters to 48 villages, we have already got girdawari [record of land cultivation] done for 29 villages and the rest will be covered by this month-end. A warehouse has been hired and the procurement is expected to start next week,” said Mr. Yadav.
Earlier the farmers in this region had to travel to Najafgarh in Delhi and Hailey Mandi (in Patuadi) to sell their produce.
Though mustard is grown in Nuh and Sohna as well, there are no purchase centres in there.
Naresh Kumar, a resident of Dhorka village, however, said that farmers would have benefited the most had the procurement started earlier.
He added that the maximum limit of 25 quintals fixed for procurement was not pragmatic.
“While the produce per acre is more than 1,000 kg per acre this year, the government has fixed the limit of 660 kg per acre. Besides, there is a maximum limit of 25 quintals for procurement. How many times are farmers expected to come to the market to sell their produce?,” asked the 27-year-old.
‘Need cash to pay debts’
“It rained in the morning today. It is overcast still. The farmers cannot afford to store the produce for long in these conditions and are forced to sell it off,” said Jagdish, a resident of Nahapur.
He added that farmers needed urgent cash to pay off debts and could not afford to wait for the government to start procurement.
Suresh Chauhan, from Sultanpur, cited the delay in payment by HAFED as another reason why the farmers were not enthusiastic about government procurement.
Mr. Chauhan pointed out that the commission agents made the payments promptly, but HAFED took several weeks. The 55-year-old claimed that he had never sold his produce to government agencies.
“Let alone the MSP, we didn’t even get fertiliser this time around. The fertiliser was not available even in the black market,” said Rakesh, another farmer.
A senior market committee official, not willing to be identified, conceded the delay in the procurement process. He said that the harvesting of mustard started as early as mid-February in Nuh and Sohna, but the farmers did not get benefit of procurement by government due to delay.
“Ideally, the girdawari should be completed by January-end and the procurement started by March 1,” he added.