Bumper crop - but no smiles on faces of Punjab's farmers
A bumper wheat crop this season should have brought smiles on the faces of Punjab's hard-working farmers. But a variety of adverse circumstances, including the weather, has left them dispirited.
The bumper crop apart, Punjab farmers have been forced to deal with unseasonal rainfall and thunderstorms in recent days with the harvested crop lying in the open in grain markets and agricultural fields getting wet and moisture content in the grains going up.
In the state's grain markets, while there is a virtual glut of wheat arriving, the earlier stocks are not getting lifted due to mismanagement like inadequate gunny bags.
By Wednesday, Punjab had procured over 10 million tonnes of wheat. Though the procurement process started April 1, bulk of the wheat started arriving after April 25.
Punjab is expecting a bumper crop of nearly 17 million tonnes. With an extended winter this year, the crop yield has increased.
"We are facing a lot of trouble in the grain markets. The earlier stocks have not been lifted. Many farmers are finding it difficult to even off-load their produce from tractor-trolleys. The officials say that they are helpless. The rain in recent days had made matters worse as moisture content in the grains has gone up," farmer Sukhchain Singh, who brought his wheat produce to a grain market near Jalandhar, told IANS.
Some farmers claim that they have to suffer the mismanagement almost every year.
"The farmer suffers the most in the entire process. If moisture content goes up, the agencies don't procure the wheat. The farmers are forced to sell the produce at a loss. The grain markets do not have adequate facilities for off-loading, storage and proper procurement," Parminder Singh, a farmer from the Dasuya area of Hoshiarpur district, said.
Official sources in the agriculture and food and supplies departments say that over 50 percent of the stocks in the grain markets are yet to be lifted.
"While this stock is yet to be lifted, more wheat arrival is happening daily. There is a glut in the grain markets. There is no space for fresh wheat arrival," said a procurement officer in Sirhind, 65 km from here.
With parliamentary polls being held April 30 in the state, authorities remained busy with election work and procurement suffered.
Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal had recently questioned the Election Commission for not holding elections in Punjab April 10 along with Haryana and Chandigarh.
He pointed out that it was well known that wheat procurement would be at its peak April 30.
"We expect to procure about 12.5 million tonnes of wheat this season. This year is a bumper crop," agriculture commissioner B.S. Sidhu said.
The Reserve Bank of India releases around Rs.20,000 crore to the Punjab government for procurement of wheat every year.
(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
(Posted on 07-05-2014)