Farmers from villages in Punjab’s Mansa staged a protest outside the market committee office alleging that the moisture content of their cotton crop was not being checked and private players were telling them to sell cotton at below MSP rates. The agitators burnt a heap of cotton outside the market committee office.
The issue of sale of cotton below MSP was also raised at a dharna on the Sirsa-Ludhiana highway.
On Wednesday, a delegation of Akali Dal’s Bathinda unit had met officials of the Cotton Corporation of India (CCI) and complained that less purchase by CCI was the main cause that the private player was exploiting the farmer. The delegation, led by former minister Sikander Singh Maluka, who is president of SAD’s kisan wing, had even threatened to stage protests outside CCI office and market committee office if things do not improve.
At Bhucho mandi in Bathinda, protests were staged outside the market committee office on October 8 and cotton also burnt outside their office too. Protests were held in many other cotton mandis of the state on Friday including Rama Mandi, Talwandi Sabo, Jhunir, Budhlada, Boha etc. in Bathinda and Mansa while farmers of Muktsar and Fazilka also lodged their protest over getting low prices.
Gora Singh Bhainibaga, a farmer of Bhainibaga village in Mansa said, “Farmers staged protests on state and national highways for two hours to extend solidarity with Haryana farmers as they were lathicharged when they went to gherao deputy CM Dushyant Chautala’s house in Sirsa. However in the Malwa belt, talks was also on low prices of cotton. MSP is there, but we hardly get it. Hence, what is the guarantee that MSP will stay on implementation of farm laws?”
Meanwhile, MSP for quality of cotton coming to Punjab mandis is Rs 5,725 per quintal for staple length of 27.5-28.5 mm. However, farmers stated that on Thursday, they got Rs 4,000-4,700 a quintal, while a few farmers were even offered as low as Rs 3800 a quintal. On Friday, the price range offered by private players at many mandis was Rs 5,100-5,300. CCI purchases product at MSP only, said Bhainibaga.
Gaggi Singh of Khiyala Kalan village of Mansa turned back to his house as he was offered Rs 3,800 per quintal rate on Thursday. “I sold a part of my cotton at Rs 4,300 per quintal while Amrik Singh of Kotdharmu village sold at Rs 4,700 a quintal on Thursday.”
“So far in Punjab’s cotton belt, 1.25 lakh quintals of cotton have arrived out of which 12,000 quintals have been purchased by CCI at Rs 5,725 a quintal MSP. CCI purchases cotton of staple length between 27.5-28.5 mm and moisture should be between 8-12 per cent. We have been regularly going to mandis since October 5. Product as per specification is always purchased at MSP,” said Neeraj Kumar, AGM of Kapas Bhawan, Bathinda.
This year, 56 lakh quintals of cotton are expected in the market as area under cotton was more than 5 lakh hectare. Last year, 47 lakh quintal cotton had come in market, out of which 17.75 lakh quintal was purchased by CCI. “Narme da sahi rate nahi mil reha…fer baki faslan da keenve vishvas kariye (We are not getting proper rate for cotton, so how do we believe we will get desired rates for other crops?),” asked Shingara Singh Maan, president of BKU (Ugrahan) Bathinda unit.
Meanwhile, SAD leader Sikander Singh Maluka said, “We will protest outside the CCI and market committee offices if neither take action. CCI needs to come to mandis on a regular basis and market committee officials need to measure moisture content in crop. They are here to protect the farmers. If CCI officials come to mandis on a regular basis, private players will feel pressure to not harass the farmer too much. A number of private players are purchasing crop without even measuring staple length or recording moisture content of crop.”
Gurjeet Singh, a farmer from Deon village who has sown cotton on 10 acres, said, “I sold my produce at Rs 4,500 per quintal. The staple length of my crop was nearly 27 mm, but even then I got poor rates from a private buyer. The MSP for 27 mm staple length is Rs 5,725 per quintal”.
Farmers Balwinder Singh and Gursewak too sold cotton in the same range. Their crop’s staple length, they claimed, was between 25-26 mm and hence they could have got MSP in the range of Rs 5,515-5,615 per quintal.
Neeraj Kumar said, “We purchase cotton with a moisture range of 8-12 per cent, but as of now the the crop being brought by farmers has a moisture content ranging from 16-22 per cent. We are repeatedly appealing to the farmers to adhere to guidelines.”
Mahesh Sharda, president of Indian Cotton Association, said, “This year upto 24,000 bales have arrived in cotton mandis of Punjab. The stock is less than previous year’s as rains played spoilsport in May during sowing time and in August end.”
Many private players said that the price of the product can be ascertained as per the quality of crop and price of processed cotton in the market. As the two are interrelated, daily purchase prices change.
Cotton had started coming to mandis in mid-September, but majority of stock has been sold below MSP. Some stock never comes to mandis and farmer sells it directly from his field, said sources.
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