More procurement centres, gin and press units helped Maharashtra clock a five-year high in terms of government procurement of cotton. With over 92 per cent payment cleared for farmers, the government is confident of finishing the process in the next one or two days.
Maharashtra reported an all-time high 44 lakh hectares of cotton acreage and production of 407 lakh quintals (80 lakh bales each of 170 kg) of cotton. Since the start of the season, the fibre crop has been trading well below its government declared minimum support price (MSP) of Rs 5,500 per quintal. Both the Cotton Corporation of India (CCI) and the Maharashtra State Cooperative Cotton Marketing Federation had waded into procurement of cotton to help farmers. Till March 2020 — that is before the lockdown was announced — both the CCI and the federation had effected payment of 145.06 lakh quintals of cotton.
The lockdown had seen cotton procurement process slowing down because of social distancing norms and restriction on movement. The process involves farmers registering their cotton with the local Agricultural Produce Marketing Committees (APMCs) after which it is taken to the procurement centres run by the CCI or the federation (the federation buys on behalf of CCI). Once the quality of the cotton is fixed, farmers are paid accordingly. The procured cotton is then processed into bales in the press and gin units, which are adjacent to the procurement centre with the bales transported later to the warehouses.
Anoop Kumar, principal secretary of animal husbandry, dairy development fisheries and marketing, said the impasse created by the lockdown was resolved by talking to individual district collectors to restart the process of government procurement. Given the urgency of the matter, the number of both procurement centres as well as ginning and pressing units were increased substantially. Thus the federation, which had 74 procurement centres and 127 pressing and ginning units prior to the lockdown, increased it to 89 and 170 respectively. Similarly CCI, which was operating 84 procurement centres and 181 processing units, increased it to 85 and 231 respectively.
Data shared by the state marketing department shows that till date both the government agencies have effected procurement of 200 lakh quintals of kapas (unginned seed cotton) while private traders have procured 198 lakh quintals. Thus, only a small fraction of 407 lakh quintals still remain with the farmers which the federation and CCI says will be procured in the next few days. “In areas where the procurement centres did not have water proof structures to protect the cotton, the APMCs had erected sheds,” he said. Till date, of the Rs 10,463.25 crore to be paid to farmers in way of MSP, Rs 9946.46 crore have been paid. “The remaining amount will be cleared soon,” he said.
This would be a five-year high. Back in 2014-15, the state saw procurement of 108.88 lakh quintals of cotton, which is almost half of the present year’s procurement.
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