The Punjab government has, at the end of the wheat procurement season, procured only 106 lakh tonne, which is slightly higher than last year but short of its target of procuring 120 lakh tonne. According ot the Punjab Mandi Board (PMB), the dip in procurement was noted across the seven districts of Malwa region close to Haryana grain markets, while Majha, Doaba and the rest of Malwa regions showed an enhancement in the procurement as compare to last year.
Haryana, meanwhile, procured 66 lakh tonnes this year compared to 63 lakh tonnes last year. It even exceeded its target of procuring 65 LT this year. Although different reasons were given for not meeting the target for this year, it is learnt from reliable sources that the Punjab’s target was exaggerated to receive Cash Credit Limit (CCL) from the Centre in advance so farmers, labourers and transporters could be paid their due.
In fact, sources add that the delay in payment may have caused several farmers to take their produce over to Haryana. “Most likely wheat was sold to Haryana’s mandis as the stakeholders get the money quickly over there than wait for weeks here,” said PMB Vice Chariman Ravinder Singh Cheema adding that various farmers have their commission agents in Haryana’s Mandies and they prefer to go there. Procurement was the lowest in Ferozepur and Bathinda districts while Sangrur recorded the highest, although it too was around 7,000 tonnes short of last year’s record.
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“This year, the wheat was harvested way too early. We were expecting a bumper crop but some how fell short,” said Cheema adding that the state would peg around 10 to 11 per cent shortage of the earlier set target for wheat procurement. The government and the PMB pointed to hoarding and stocking around double for seed purpose as other reasons for the short fall. “Punjab government had exaggerated the initial target at least by 10 lakhs tonnes,” said a senior member of Punjab Arhtiya association adding that target should have between 110 to 111 Lakh tonnes.
‘Exaggerated target’ Punjab had demanded Rs 20,094 crores CCL this year. “Over Rs. 18,000 crores was needed to procure 120 lakh tonnes of wheat and the remaining for other expenses,” said food and civil supply department sources. “The target was exaggerated a little because the Centre had started releasing CCL in installments, which delay the payments to farmers, labourer for weeks together. This way, we will have more funds,” said the source, requesting anonymity.
“But even if Punjab gets higher CCL, the state could use only which is required as there is no question of hiding anything. Everything is on record,” said another official in the department. Punjab Food and Civil Supply minister Adesh Pratap Singh Kairon could not be contacted about his comment on exaggerated figures.