“How could I have taken my 10 quintals of narma cotton to Dhigawa mandi, which is 60 km away, to get minimum support price (MSP)? I sold my crop to a local trader at the rate of Rs 5,120 per quintal instead of Rs 5,725, which has been fixed as MSP of cotton this year,” says Jaipal Bishnoi, a resident of a dhani (hamlet) situated near Siwani mandi of Haryana’s Bhiwani district.
“Traders are buying cotton at much lower prices than MSP. For MSP we have to go to the procurement centre of Cotton Corporation of India (CCI), which is at Dhigawa. Another CCI centre is situated in Adampur town, which is 65 km away from Siwani. In the current circumstances, MSP is just a distant dream for us,” added Jaipal, who had cultivated cotton in one and half acres.
This year, the Haryana government had claimed that there would be 40 procurement centres of CCI, but official sources in CCI said that till now, only 17 centres have become functional in the state, which is just two more than the centres set up in 2019. Dhigawa’s centre is among the new centres opened this year. Last year, only 25 per cent of the total cotton produced in Haryana was purchased by the CCI at the rate of MSP. The left-out farmers have to sell their produce to private players. This year too, farmers are forced to sell cotton below MSP in the absence of adequate CCI procurement centres.
“At Siwani mandi now, the traders are not ready to buy cotton at more than Rs 4,900 per quintal. If I take my produce to Dhigawa or Adampur mandi, I have to pay heavy transport charges. So, I am confused as to what to do,” says another farmer, Rajiv Sheoran, a farmer from Mattani village of Bhiwani district. Rajiv is expecting 80 quintal cotton in his ten-acre farm.
“I have procured cotton from farmers at the rate of Rs 5,000-5,100 per quintal,” Braham Prakash Beniwal, a private ginning unit owner of Siwani mandi in Bhiwani district, told The Indian Express.
Farmers on Thursday staged a protest at Siwani to demand a CCI procurement centre there. “Half of the cotton belt doesn’t have CCI procurement centres in Haryana, forcing farmers to sell their produce at low prices. It has weakened them further, with low production of the crop this year. In comparison to average production of 8 quintal per acre in our area, this year, yield is just three quintal per acre in the fields of a large number of farmers. Many have got an even lower yield. Now, they are facing problems in mandis. We have come to know that even at the CCI procurement centres the cotton of many farmers is not procured at the rate of MSP on pretext of technical reasons like moisture content,” says Dayanand Poonia, Haryana unit secretary of All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS).
CCI officials say they buy cotton with 8 per cent moisture content at the rate of Rs 5,725 per quintal, but if the moisture content is above 8 per cent, they deduct a small amount from the MSP price. “We don’t buy cotton if the moisture content is above 12 per cent,” an official says, requesting anonymity.
The CCI started procurement from October 1, while the farmers had started bringing their produce to the mandis around 20 days ago.
Till Friday, the CCI had procured about 90,000 quintals cotton in Haryana, while it had procured about 30 lakh quintals in 2019. “This year too, CCI may procure the same quantity or little more than what was procured in 2019,” said sources in the CCI, adding that procurement will start picking up from October 15.
Arrangements are not adequate till now: Agri minister
Haryana Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Minister J P Dalal admitted that fewer CCI procurement centres is a problem for the farmers. “It’s true that arrangements to procure cotton are not adequate till now but we are trying our level best to improve the same. There was no CCI procurement centre in my constituency (Loharu) earlier but this year, one such centre has been started at Dhigawa village. Earlier, only 25 per cent of the total cotton production in Haryana was procured by CCI in Haryana but this year, we will try to procure maximum amount of cotton. We have proposed to turn cotton mills into procurement centres,” says Dalal.
Apart from the CCI, the rest of the cotton is purchased either by owners of ginning units or traders. Traders later sell the cotton to mill owners by earning some margin
CCI procures cotton directly from farmers, and transfers the payment into their accounts directly unlike the Food Corporation of India (FCI) and other government agencies which procure wheat and paddy from farmers through ahrtiyas (commission agents at mandis) while giving them commission at the rate of 2.5 per cent.
Ahrtiyas, who have a strong lobby in Haryana, insist that cotton procurement should also be done through them. “To ensure speedy procurement of cotton, it should be done through ahrtiyas. The farmers will also be happy with this system as we give them advance money whenever they need the same. Lot of documentation is required to sell their produce to CCI which is a problem for farmers,” says Ram Avtar Tayal, convener, Haryana State Anaj Mandi Ahrtiya Association.
On the suggestion of procurement through ahrtiyas on a 1.25 per cent commission system, Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar had recently clarified that no assurance has been given by the Centre in this regard. “Cotton was not procured through ahrtiyas last year as well,” Khattar had stated after a meeting with Union Minister of Textiles Smriti Irani.
A trader leader from Fatehabad mandi, Subhash Munjal says, “Only a few farmers in Haryana produce deshi cotton. The private millers buy it at the rate of 5,700 to 5,800 per quintal.”
In Haryana, cotton is mainly produced in Sirsa, Hisar, Fatehabad, Bhiwani, Kaithal, Jind and Palwal districts. Agriculture department figures suggest that area under cotton has increased in the past five years. In the past four years, production increased but this year less production is expected as the crop faced attacks of white fly and other pests in Bhiwani, Hisar, Fatehahad and Sirsa.
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