Days after Punjab’s farmers filled Shiromani Gurdwara Parbhandhak Committee (SGPC) granaries with record wheat for community kitchen amid Covid-19 spread, the religious body’s allotment of tender for desi ghee for making prashad to a Pune-based company is set to cost Punjab’s Milkfed Rs 60 crore, when the dairy farmers are already facing delayed payments for their milk produce.
The SGPC has recently allotted tender to a Pune-based private cooperative company. This has happened for the first time that the SGPC will be procuring desi ghee from outside Punjab. Last year, the SGPC used 13,000 quintal desi ghee worth Rs 52 crore in its gurdwaras across Punjab and Haryana. The SGPC has 85 large gurdwaras across both the states.
The SGPC has been a single largest consumer of Milkfed’s desi ghee of Verka brand. It accounts for 20 per cent of desi ghee purchase from Verka every year. The tender was allotted to a Pune-based company as it quoted Rs 315 per kg of desi ghee while Verka quoted Rs 399 per kg.
While SGPC secretary Mohinder Singh told The Indian Express that they tried their best to negotiate with Milkfed but the body, under the Cooperatives Department of Punjab government, did not budge. “We spent an entire day. But they did not reduce the price. We wanted to give the tender to Verka only. We tried our best. Then we could not do it. The tender had to go to a company that quoted the minimum price. There is no politics in this,” he said.
As the SGPC and government’s cooperative department failed to reach a consensus, the dairy farmers, who provide milk to the government cooperative, are set to suffer. As the private dairy processing units had refused to procure milk from the farmers during Covid-19 lockdown, Milkfed had come to their rescue. The Milkfed has added stocks of milk powder and desi ghee this year and the payments to farmers have been delayed. At least, two payments are due.
Amid the development, the political rivalry between Punjab’s Cooperatives Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa and SAD leaders has also come into play.
Milkfed MD Kamaldeep Sangha said that it was not possible to provide desi ghee at such low prices.
“I cannot let my farmers suffer at this juncture. Reducing price means we would have to pass it on to the farmers. They are already hit due to Covid. I set the tone in setting price of milk. If I reduce the price, it would mean they have to suffer. We have been fighting at various levels, even with the government of India not to allow import of milk products.”
He said the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) had procured desi ghee at the same price from Verka. The same price was quoted to SGPC as well.
Cabinet Minister Randhawa said it was sad that the SGPC had chosen to give the money collected from devotees from Punjab to other state. “We will find market elsewhere but the SGPC should have thought about Punjab farmers first. Nobody knows what kind of quality of ghee will be supplied to them at such a low price. Everybody knows how much a kg of ghee costs. “
As the SGPC and Milkfed are unable to reach a consensus, farmers are upset. Punjab’s Dairy Farmers Association president Daljit Singh Sadarpura said, “It would mean a business of at least Rs 60 crore going to other state. We will not know the quality. The SGPC should have stood with the farmers at least at this juncture. We are hit due to Covid crisis. We will submit a memorandum to SGPC office-bearers. Let us see what happens.”
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