Procurement woes worsen as moisture plays spoilsport
With water-guzzling paddy reeling under the onslaught of water excesses this year,Punjab is almost certain to supply less of the crop to the Central poll this year. After a bumper crop last year despite insufficient rains,Punjab is looking at the prospect of a decline in production this year. The agriculture department has scaled down its production forecast from 168 lakh metric tonnes (MT) in 2009 to between 160 and 165 lakh MT this year.
Floods inundating large parts of the states paddy belt in early July; rains during pollination stage in late September and resultant pest attacks; and inclement weather conditions last week during harvesting are the factors that reduced the yield in most districts.
The procurement figures,too,are trailing by nearly 8 lakh MT in comparison to last year 79.41 lakh MT of paddy had arrived in the state mandis till October 24,2009. The food and civil supplies department has this year fixed a higher procurement target of 140 lakh MT against last years 137 lakh MT for the central pool.
We are expecting the production to fall by 4-5 lakh MT this year, says Agriculture Director B S Sidhu. In addition to floods and untimely rains,he attributes it also to varieties such as PUSA-44 replacing the high-yielding PAU 201,the largest sown variety last year.
Against the average yield of 35 quintals an acre in case of PAU 201,the average yield of PUSA 44 is 28 quintals an acre. This difference will reflect in production figures, he added. While the average yield has been hit,the contribution of some districts such as Tarn Taran and Amritsar to the central pool may go up this year owing to fall in area under superfine varieties such as basmati,which are not procured for the central pool. In other districts such as Ferozepur,production is likely to remain at the level of last year.
We are hoping to touch last years production figure of 13.78 lakh MT even this year as the area under basmati varieties has gone down owing to poor prices fetched by farmers in 2009. However,the per acre yield of paddy has gone down by at least two to three quintals an acre owing to rains in late September during the pollination stage. The resultant discolouration and damage to grain is now posing problems in procurement, says Bakshish Singh Chahal,Chief Agricultural Officer,Ferozepur.
It is not the loss of yield,but problems in procurement that is worrying farmers. The five state agencies are strictly adhering to specifications on discolouration,moisture and damage,with the Food Corporation of India refusing to accept below specification stocks from rice millers last year. At Maur mandi in Bathinda,rice millers had returned stocks on Sunday,citing higher moisture and discolouration in the procured grain. Truckloads of paddy was returned by rice shellers,stating that the FCI will not accept the rice milled from it. We are using fans to dry the stock and farmers are also willing to wait at mandis for a few more days to ensure that the grain is properly dried, said Bathinda District Mandi Officer (DMO) Gursewak Singh.
At Bassi Pathana,too,rice shellers have been refusing to accept the paddy with high moisture content and blackened grains,leading to bags choking the mandi. Owing to last weeks rains on standing and procured crop,procurement has been hit. Of the 1.89 lakh MT procured so far in Fatehgarh Sahib district,48,500 MT is lying in mandis, said DMO Sunder Goyal.
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