Farmers in trouble, agencies won’t procure moist paddy

Ruchika M Khanna

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 8

This year, a good yield of paddy and a reasonable hike in its MSP was expected to bring relief for the state farmers. But all their hopes were dashed with a fall in the yield and high moisture content in the crop.

As the procurement season peaks, high moisture in paddy is forcing procurement agencies to reject the crop. Though the Food Corporation of India (FCI) has fixed permissible moisture limit at 17 per cent, almost half the crop reaching mandis in the state has moisture content of over 20 per cent.

While the fall in yield has forced the government to rework and reduce its procurement targets by 9 lakh metric tonnes (LMT), the high moisture content is likely to reduce the procurement by another 5 LMT.

The agencies will not be buying moist paddy and the farmers will have to store it and sell it later after drying. The latest figures put the total procurement target at 165 LMT.

Harbans Singh Rosha, a commission agent in Khanna, said: “In some cases, moisture content in the crop is as high as 24 per cent. We cannot purchase this paddy. Farmers are forced to first hire labour and dry the paddy, if it has to be bought by the agencies.” The farmers were being harassed and the main reason for this was the government decision of late sowing of paddy, he said.

“The paddy was sown only after June 20. This meant that maturing was delayed. Since there were rains in September end, the crop did not ripen properly. It affected the yield and also led to high moisture content,” he said.

Farmers too said the moisture content was relatively higher this year because of delayed sowing. Gurdev Singh of Rajgarh near Doraha said though half of his crop was sold after a week of being dried, for which he had to shell out an additional Rs 15 per quintal as labour charges, the remaining crop had not been sold so far. “I have no option but to raise another loan from an arhtiya,” he rued.

Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan, general secretary of the Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan), said the day temperature had fallen and paddy could not be dried quickly. “The farmers will suffer huge losses. That is why we have decided to launch an agitation after November 11 to demand that the permissible limit of moisture content be raised to 24 per cent,” he said.

So far, 125.36 LMT has been procured against 155 LMT procured during the same period last year. This shows that the procurement is down by 30 LMT so far.