West Bengal food minister Jyotipriyo Mullick today said the demonetisation was taking a heavy toll on paddy procurement in the state and would cause a severe food crisis in days to come. Despite a bumper paddy production in Bengal this year, the process of its procurement by the government has gone for a toss due to the current liquidity crunch among farmers, who are unable to pay the labourers engaged in reaping paddy crops.
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“Last year around this time we had completed near about 50 per cent paddy procurement. But this time only 23 per cent has been done. The reason is that farmers are unable to reap the paddy. They don’t have the money to pay the labourers as they take their payments in cash,” Mullick said.
“The labourers take around Rs 180/220 per day. The farmers don’t have cash and banks don’t have enough cash. Thus the paddy is still lying in the fields,” he said, adding, “It would cause a severe food crisis in days to come.”
Mullick said the state government, as per rules, was paying for the paddy procurement through cheques since last year. The state government had increased paddy procurement target to 52 lakh tonnes in 2016-17 from last year’s 40 lakh tonnes. This year the state had a bumper paddy procurement of 1.75 crore tonnes.
“We will complete our target of 52 lakh tones. We will pay through cheques, but what will farmers do? If the situation persists, there will be an unnatural price jump from the month of March -April with food chain and supplies going haywire. The Rabi season will start soon, the paddy is yet to be reaped,” Mullick said.