Tamil Nadu, given its history as a pioneer in irrigation, is regarded as a major rice-producing State. But it does not figure as a key provider of rice at the all-India level if one is to consider the data on rice procurement, as furnished by the Food Corporation of India (FCI).
In the last five years, the contribution of Tamil Nadu to the Central pool hovered between 2.6% and 5%. The current Kharif Marketing Season 2021-22 (October-September) and the year before have been particularly good. Yet, this does not take the State beyond the 5%-mark. Considering Tamil Nadu’s annual requirement of about 38 lakh tonnes of rice for the public distribution system (PDS), the State has to depend on supplies from the Central authorities or other States, as what gets procured by the authorities locally is barely sufficient for the PDS.
As far as Tamil Nadu is concerned, the authorities procure paddy which, when processed into rice, yields about two-thirds of what is procured originally.
Leaving aside the largest producers like Punjab, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh, a comparative study of Tamil Nadu and select States, including two in the southern region, reveals that Tamil Nadu is virtually behind all others. Andhra Pradesh’s share varies from 9.4% to 10.5%; Telangana - 9% to 15.7%; Chhattisgarh - 7.9% to 8.5%; and Odisha - around 8.6%. Madhya Pradesh is seeing a steady rise, from 2.8% to 6%.
However, K. Ramasamy, former Vice-Chancellor of Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, does not agree with the view that the State is an insignificant player in rice production. “We have been a major producer, taking care of the requirements of the people of the State. Besides, we have been beneficial to States such as Kerala,” he says.
Pointing out that the emergence of Madhya Pradesh as a prominent rice-producing State has been facilitated by the creation of irrigation infrastructure, Dr. Ramasamy emphasises that in the coming years, Tamil Nadu’s farmers will have to keep in mind the requirements of the foreign market, while producing rice or making value addition. For example, the kind of rice suitable for making idli will be in great demand among Tamils overseas, the former Vice-Chancellor adds.
D. Thulasingam, president, Federation of Tamil Nadu Rice Mill Owners’ and Paddy-Rice Dealers’ Associations, says there has been a perceptible shift in the position of Tamil Nadu as a rice provider at the national level. More and more direct purchase centres are being opened in many districts, including in the non-delta areas. This, and many other measures, are paving the way for the increase in the procurement of paddy.