FCI, Markfed step up foodgrains procurement

HYDERABAD, NOV. 27.The Cabinet sub-committee on farmers' problems has expressed confidence that there will be a definite spurt in the pace of procurement of foodgrains and payment of minimum support price (MSP) in the next few days with the FCI and Markfed stepping up their operations in a big way.

The panel, consisting of Messrs N. Janardhan Reddy (Minister for Civil Supplies), V. Sobhanadreeswara Rao (Agriculture) and B. Veera Reddy (Marketing), which visited the market yard at Suryapet on Monday, noted that nearly 80 per cent of the rice brought by farmers conformed to the FCI quality norms (fairly average quality -FAQ) and entitled them to the MSP.

Talking to reporters here, Dr. Janardhan Reddy and Mr. Sobhanadreeswara Rao explained that the problem was mostly with extraneous matter in the rice which caused rejection and not so much with moisture content, which was well below the permitted levels.

Farmers were being educated through pamphlets and other media to clean the grain of mud or sand particles and then bring it to the marketyard to ensure MSP. It was not possible for them to clean the stocks in the market yards. The Government was ready to provide sieves (`jalleda') on 25 per cent subsidy to help farmers clean their grains.

Senior officials of the FCI, who also were present, agreed to enter the market in a big way from tomorrow. "You will see definite improvement in the next few days. More farmers will get MSP. On account of our persistent efforts, the price for rice has gone up from Rs 380 to nearly Rs 500 a quintal".

They said they would also make a strong case for treating `sona mashuri' variety of rice as grade `A' by relaxing certain norms when the Minister for Food and Consumer Affairs, Mr. Shanta Kumar, visits Hyderabad on December 1.

The Joint Collectors had been asked to constantly monitor operations at marketyards and report to Government on progress of procurement and payment of MSP. They also asked consumers not resort to panic buying of onions, saying Government would intervene to control prices.

Sources said the visiting Ministers saw for themselves the tricks adopted by vested interests to scuttle procurement drive. Hamalis were coaxed to strike work at the marketyard to frustrate purchase operations there.

Earlier, the Cabinet sub-committee held a meeting with representatives of political parties. It was attended by Messrs G. Chinna Reddy, MLA, (Congress), Lal Jan Basha and C. Lakshmanna (TDP), K. Lakshman, MLA, N. Tulasi Reddy (BJP), K. Satyanarayana, Malla Reddy (CPI-M), P. Nageswara Rao and K. Nageswara Rao (CPI).

Broadly, the participants expressed concern over the plight of the farmers who continued to get a raw deal and over the sluggish pace of procurement by the FCI, Markfed, Oilfed and other agencies.