DESPITE EXCELLENT crop and increased yield in nine districts of the total 23, the Punjab government’s wheat procurement target may witness a fall of around 10-12 lakh metric tonnes from its initial target of 120 lakh metric tonnes (lmt), that is 12 million tonnes, this year.
According to Punjab Mandi Board (PMB), 103.62 lmt wheat had already arrived in state mandis till May 4 (Wednesday) while the procurement is still going on in Punjab which may last for another 10 days. But the flow of wheat into grain markets has drastically come down in the past week from around five lakh mt to 60 to 70,000 tonnes a day. PMB records say that already 97.44 per cent of wheat had arrived in Punjab’s mandis which means around 3 lakh tonnes more wheat can come to Punjab’s markets now. Last year, Punjab had procured 106.34 lmt wheat.
So why is the state falling way behind its target this year?
Apart from the delay in release of Cash Credit Limit (CCL) to Punjab, several other reasons are being cited by experts from the agriculture department, Punjab Mandi Board, farmers and Arhtyiyas (commission agents).
Punjab agriculture department director Dr J S Bains said farmers of around 200 villages in the border area districts, which are located close to the Haryana state’s grain markets, have sold their crop in Haryana because they get instant payment.
He said yield of the crop has increased in over a half dozen of districts in Punjab this season but due to selling in Haryana, the state will miss the target.
Farmers of several villages of Mukatsar, Bathinda, Mansa, Fazilka districts said they go to Haryana markets to sell their crop.
Maluk Singh Heera, who has seven acres in Heerka village of Mansa district, goes to Sirsa mandi in Haryana, which is nearly 20 km away from his village, to sell his farm produce. A mandi in Sardulgarh in Punjab, however, is only half this distance. Heerka, who is president of BKU (Sidhupura) Mansa district, said, “Farmers from over 30 villages of Mansa go to Sirsa, Faizabad, Ratia mandis of Haryana. He added, “The trend of going to Haryana mandis started when we started getting more prices for Basmati produce compared to Punjab markets and also, the marketing of Haryana mandis is better.
Bagicha Singh, another farmer of the same village with over 10 acres land, said, “Because we are in contact with Haryana ahrtiyas for Basmati sale, we prefer to sell wheat too in the same markets and also we do not need to wait much in Haryana markets as compared to Punjab markets. We got higher rates for our Basmati varieties 1121, 1401 etc last season.
Heerka said, “Despite the distance, we get better facilities in Haryana.”
Over 80 villages of Mansa and Sangrur sell their produce in Haryana mandis. Moonak area of Sangrur is near Haryana and farmers go to Dhuana mandis of Haryana from this place.
Bhakar Singh from Kanakwal village of Bathinda said, “Dabwali mandi in Haryana is about 15-18 km compared to 6-16 km Rama mandi in Punjab. But we get payment within a day and cash credit limit in Haryana had come before the arrival of produce.”
Farmers from several villages of Bathinda, Fazilka and Muktsar also visit Haryana.
Abohar Congress MLA Sunil Jakhar said, “CCL is always an issue in Punjab, no matter which government is in Delhi. When Haryana can get CCL on April 1, why can’t Punjab? This scheme in fact is tailor made for Punjab and Haryana. “ Because of high prices of basmati, Punjab farmer started moving to Haryana mandis. Many Punjab ahrtiyas have open shops in Haryana mandis.
To grab business, Punjab ahrtiyas are also no less as a few of the Rajpura and Patiala based ahrtiyas have opened shops in Haryana mandis. Confirming the same Ravinder Singh Cheema, President of Punjab Ahrtiya association said,” poor prices of basmati in Punjab market have caused loss to the state as well as Punjab ahrtiyas. A few have even opened shops in Haryana mandis. They operate in Punjab too.”
Cheema said Haryana’s gain is Punjab’s loss but added that this was just one side of the story. “The other side it that this quantity is just 40,000-50,000 tonnes only and village located in border districts have been doing this for years… This cannot be a major reason for missing the target.”
“The bigger reasons are that this year, big farmers and arhtiyas of the state have ‘stored’ their crop this year at their own end instead bringing in the market owing to declared “drought” in around eight states including big one in the country and they may sell it at higher rate later.”
“Although farmers are getting good MSP for wheat (Rs 1,525 per quintal) but many a time they are able to get Rs 1,700-1,800 per quintal from various markets in the south and other parts of the country,” said a senior officer with the Punjab Mandi Board.
Also, this year 3-3.5 lakh tonnes crop has been kept for seed purpose by seed growers of Punjab, who have started selling them outside the state. In the past, this amount had never gone beyond 1.5-2 lakh tonnes, said an agriculture officer.
He added that due to unseasonal rain last year, the farmers faced major difficulties in getting seeds.
Punjab Arhtiya Association president Vijay Kalra said Haryana mandies had been getting wheat from Punjab every year for the past few years, but the quantity was “not that big.”
Notably, this year Fatehgarh Sahib, Hoshiarpur, Jalandhar, Kapurthala, Gurdaspur Pathankot, Ropar, SAS Nagar, and SBA Nagar districts had recorded more than 100 per cent enhancement, including Pathankot, with 188 per cent increase in yield.