The presence of relatively a new player in paddy procurement in Tamil Nadu is gaining the attention of farmers.
For the 2022-23 procurement year (the Kharif marketing season), which began this year in September, the National Cooperative Consumers’ Federation (NCCF), a body under the jurisdiction of the Department of Consumer Affairs at the Centre, has procured about 10.3% of paddy. As on October 1, around 3.35 lakh tonnes was procured, and the NCCF’s share in it was 34,479 tonnes.
It is not for the first time that the NCCF is procuring paddy. It has been in the market since 2016-17. However, the scale of its operation had been marginal. But the NCCF seems to be making an attempt to gain more visibility this year. “We are allowing the NCCF to procure only in the non-[Cauvery] delta region. This has been the situation for years,” points out an official attached to the Tamil Nadu Civil Supplies Corporation (TNCSC).
For the civil supplies authorities, the delta comprises the districts of Thanjavur, Tiruvarur, Mayiladuthurai, Nagapattinam, Karur, Tiruchi, Cuddalore, Pudukottai, Ariyalur and Perambalur. The remaining districts, numbering 29, are called the non-delta region. The number of civil supplies districts is 39 as against 38 revenue districts.
K.V. Elankeeran, president of the Cauvery Delta Farmers’ Association, says that though the NCCF’s writ has not been extended to the delta region, there has been an “uneasy feeling” among farmers that the body will eventually be allowed to procure in the delta, too.
Contending that the NCCF hires intermediaries to procure the paddy, he says this arrangement does not inspire confidence in farmers in the absence of accountability. Besides, the intermediaries seem to be “quite rigid” while interacting with farmers.
However, Venkatesan, president of the Chengalpattu district farmers’ welfare association, and S. Ramesh, a farmer of Neikuppam, near Walajabad in Kancheepuram district, do not highlight any such issue. In fact, they say that under the new arrangement involving the NCCF, the amount of “informal charges” — which the farmers pay at the time of procurement to a number of other players such as lorry drivers and local community — has come down considerably.
“It is for the first time that the NCCF has obtained my stock of paddy, which is nearly 20 tonnes. I have been told that the payment will be made in 15 days as against one week earlier. There is no clarity on to whom I should represent if there is any delay or any other issue,” says Mr. Ramesh. The farmer leader from Chengalpattu says farmers’ representatives have not yet been included into oversight committees for the procurement. “At the local level, no consultation was made with us before the procurement started,” he adds.