Even as the central and state governments have claimed that they have created history in the procurement of paddy, amid stiff protests over the farm Acts, a strike by traders and closure of mandis across the country, paddy growers in Theni district prefer traders to the State government to sell their produce, thanks to cumbersome procedures and inordinate delay in processing and harassment faced by farmers at procurement centres.
Traders from Madurai, Thanjavur and Virudhunagar procure paddy from farmers from the field and make the payment on the spot. At present, they offer Rs.1,030 per bag (61 kg) to farmers irrespective of moisture content. Paddy procurement is in full swing in Maragayankottai and Kuchanur belts.
Theni district is one of the major paddy producing centres in the State. Paddy is cultivated in around 25,000 acres, including 14,707 acres in Cumbum valley, 5,000 acres in Sothuparai dam ayacut in Periyakulam block and 5,000 acres in Manjalar river basin.
Delayed water release
Normally, water is released from Periyar dam for irrigation of the first crop in the twin cropping area on June 1. But this year, water was released in mid-August only, two and half months behind the scheduled release. Such a delay postpones harvesting time to November, instead of September, as a majority of farmers raise the 110-day paddy variety. However, farmers, who have alternative irrigation sources, had successfully raised nurseries and completed transplantation in time. Crops in such areas are ready for harvesting now and harvesting is in full swing in these areas only. Harvesting in other areas will pick up by October end or in the first week of November.
Theni district opens seven paddy procurement centres during peak season only. Besides, it has e-Nam facilities in Theni and Cumbum.
The Tamil Nadu government has given a minimum support price of Rs.1,888 per quintal for fine variety and Rs.1,868 per quintal for a normal variety this season. In addition, it pays an incentive of Rs.70 per quintal for thin variety and Rs.50 for normal variety. But farmers, mostly medium and small farmers, in the district wish to sell their produce to traders only.
Tamil Nadu government too has proudly announced that 32.41 lakh tonnes of paddy has been procured this season, the highest procurement in the history of the State. But procurement value was not more than 25 per cent of the total market value at the national level this season.
Stricter regulations, cumbersome process and complex logistics and endless wait at the procurement centres force farmers to prefer private traders.
The permissible limit for moisture content in paddy for procurement is 17 per cent. After vociferous protests from farmers in Punjab and Haryana, the Centre raised the permissible limit for moisture content to 19 per cent. Majority of small and tiny farmers do not have a facility or place to dry large quantity of paddy or to stock paddy safely. Moreover, they have to bear logistics costs and also loading and unloading expenses. Officials flatly reject crop with high moisture content and procure grains at their will. Paddy loses weight owing to inordinate delay. Rejection of paddy or any other trouble at the procurement centre will result in huge loss to farmers.
Many farmers, who faced such harassment, do not want to bring their produce to procurement centres. But traders never reject their produce. Transport, labour cost for loading and unloading and gunny bags for packing are the responsibility of traders. Above all, they are free from the cumbersome procurement process and irritating rules and regulations.
To encourage and motivate farmers to come to procurement centres, the government should improve facilities to farmers and eliminate troubles. They need a suitable transport facility, flexible timing to bring produce and liberal procurement procedures. Moreover, they need smart warehousing facility that ensures paperless quality control, financing and trading and the latest data on the present condition of stored produce.