Paddy season off colour

Private purchase at low rates jumps, says Mandi Board.

Discoloured paddy due to untimely rainfall have brought losses to Punjab farmers this season because it coincided with higher purchases by private agencies, which usually pay less. Such purchases picked up from 23.39 lakh tonnes last paddy season to 28.95 lakh tonnes this season, a jump of about 24 per cent.

Paddy procurement by government agencies has dropped five per cent, as compared to the last paddy season.

Looking at the figures, Mandi (market) Board chairman Ajmer Singh Lakhowal has asked officials to conduct an inquiry to find where paddy procured by private purchasers has been stocked so that they can establish the price at which they procured it from farmers and how it differs from the price at which they are putting it on sale.

Mandi Board records say though the government had set a minimum support price of Rs 1,345 per quintal, the actual price has fallen as low as Rs 1,285 per quintal. A few varieties got up to Rs 2,500 per quintal.

Purchases at low cost were made by private agencies alone, board sources say. They alleged that some agencies sought to cover up high sales, and cited the example of a sale of 135 bags being shown as 130 bags to remove all traces of purchases below the MSP.

Lakhowal says, "In the absence of any complaints from farmers, we are not able to act against any agency in particular. But we are investigating this racket at our own level because figures indicate that purchase by private agencies jumped 24 per cent, and our survey reveals that over 15 per cent paddy was sold below the MSP."

As per the data till December 10, purchase by government agencies this year was 121.20 lakh tonnes against 127.39 lakh tonnes last year, a decrease of 5%. Farmers have already protested at various mandis over poor paddy procurement this season and over poor prices.

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