Other States

Farmers stare at an uncertain future in Odisha

Gurucharan Patel, a farmer, has kept vigil throughout the winter nights of the last one month, guarding his 200 quintals of paddy, which has been lying unsold at the Jamankira purchasing centre in Odisha’s Sambalpur district.

Mr. Patel is still uncertain if his paddy would be procured. At the Jamankira purchasing centre, 272 farmers take turns to protect their paddy packets. Over 26,000 paddy packets (13,000 quintals) can be found stacked in the centre.

In neighbouring the Demrimunda marketing yard, close to 5,900 packets of paddy continue to lie under the open sky.

In Nuapada district, Khirasindhu Sagaria, another farmer, considers himself lucky that his 63 quintals of paddy were procured on Monday after a similar painful wait since December 28 last year. At the Bijepur purchasing centre in Nuapada, most farmers have no clue as to how they would sell their paddy stocks.

With procurement agencies reluctant to purchase paddy from farmers, paddy procurement has come to a halt in most places across Odisha.

“My paddy could not be procured as my token period lapsed on January 12. I don’t know when the government will generate a fresh token in my name and direct agencies to lift my paddy stock,” said Mr. Patel.

The State government blamed the current crisis on the non-release of subsidies by the Central government.

“Currently, the procurement of paddy is in full swing and the rate of procurement is 22% higher compared to the corresponding period in the previous season. There is an increase in the quantum of procurement and also a growth in the number of farmers selling their paddy to the government,” said Ranendra Pratap Swain, Minister for Food Supplies and Consumer Welfare in the State.

In a letter addressed to Union Minister for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution Piyush Goyal, Mr. Swain said, “Odisha State Civil Supplies Corporation [OSCSC] has so far borrowed a staggering sum of ₹15,000 crore to run the programme. This high volume of bank loan is mainly due to the non-release of subsidy by the Department of Food and Public Distribution.”

Stating that the OSCSC had pending claims of around ₹6,039 crore towards provisional and advance subsidies, the Minister said, “Since all resources, including sanctioned limit of bank finance, has been exhausted by the OSCSC, further procurement from farmers may be severely affected. The pending subsidy may be released urgently.”

“Moreover, the Food Corporation of India [FCI] has limited the delivery of surplus parboiled rice of our State to the extent of 50% of last year. The FCI is not ready to accept any surplus rice in the form of parboiled rice,” he said.

“Odisha’s own consumption under the PDS [public distribution system] and other welfare schemes currently comes to 24 lakh MT [metric tonne] of rice. The estimated surplus that needs to be evacuated by the FCI from the State in the current kharif season would be in the range of 30 lakh MT,” Mr. Swain said.

Odisha had recorded a bumper crop this year as no natural disaster or pest attack had hampered paddy production. Most farmers want to sell their paddy at the government-run marketing yard as they would get ₹1,860 per quintal as opposed to ₹1,200 per quintal in the open market.

“Farmers are facing an unprecedented crisis due to the short-sightedness of the government. Since the target procurement was assessed by officials in the State capital without taking into consideration the ground situation, problems emerged in the middle of the current procurement season,” said Saroj, a farmer leader.

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Printable version | Mar 6, 2021 11:54:27 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/farmers-stare-at-an-uncertain-future-in-odisha/article33613390.ece

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