New Delhi: The rabi procurement season for 2020 is coming to an end, and most states have almost completed the process of buying wheat from farmers. But not Uttar Pradesh, the largest producer of wheat in the country.
Between 15 April and 24 May, UP procured 20.39 lakh metric tonnes (LMT) of wheat, just 5.6 per cent of the total estimated production of 363 LMT. This is also only about 37 per cent of the procurement target of 55 LMT set for the state by the central government. This target in itself was only about 15 per cent of the total estimated production.
Compare this to neighbouring Madhya Pradesh, which has procured 113.38 LMT until 24 May, greater than its procurement target of 100 LMT.
Last year, UP had the same target — 55 LMT — but only procured 37 LMT of wheat.
An official from the state food and civil supplies department told ThePrint on the condition of anonymity that procurement has picked up after a slow start.
“The lag in procurement is due to initial shortage of jute sacks, but it has picked up pace since plastic bags were allowed. Over 20 LMT of wheat has been purchased from around four lakh farmers,” the official said.
“The procurement is being done through 5,947 procurement centres in the state. A total of 6,39,314 farmers have registered to sell wheat at minimum support price,” he added.
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Selling wheat below MSP in mandis
However, farmers say the slow pace of procurement is forcing them to sell below MSP in mandis. The MSP for wheat is fixed at Rs 1,925 per quintal, up from Rs 1,840 last year.
Pushpak Singh, who grows wheat in Bahavari village of Shamli district, told ThePrint: “The pace of procurement is slow and the officials are ignoring the purchase in the name of quality. Due to the delay, I had to sell 100 quintals of wheat to a trader at a rate of Rs 1,850 per quintal.”
He added: “To save multiple labour and transportation costs, many farmers are selling wheat in mandis at Rs 1,800-1,850 per quintal.”
Sandeep Kumar, a wheat farmer in Barhalganj, Gorakhpur, concurred with his western UP counterpart.
“A large number of farmers have failed to get the registration done, and even if we get a token, there are days-long queues to sell our wheat, which is then often refused on quality norms of shrivelling and lack of lustre,” Kumar said.
“Once the wheat is rejected, we have to bring it back again in a tractor, which is double the transportation cost, plus other expenses while waiting there. Hence, it’s better we sell to other traders or to the local consumer at a rate lower than MSP,” he added.
Situation in other states
Across India, the total wheat procurement until 24 May was 341.56 LMT, surpassing the 341.31 LMT figure from last year. The pan-India procurement target set by the government’s nodal agency, the Food Corporation of India, is 407 LMT.
While MP has exceeded its procurement target, other states are faring much better than UP. Punjab, for example, has procured 125.84 LMT, 93.22 per cent of its target of 135 LMT, while Haryana has procured 70.65 LMT, 74.37 per cent of its target of 95 LMT.
According to estimates by the Ministry of Agriculture, total wheat production this year is expected to be a record 1,070 LMT, up from last year’s 1,030 LMT.
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