THE MAJORITY of farmers in Bihar, who have harvested their paddy crop this season, have no option but to sell their produce at rates much below the Minimum Support Price of Rs 1,868 per quintal in open market, largely because of delayed and slow procurement by the state government’s nodal procurement agency, Primary Agriculture Credit Society (PACS).
Although the official date to start the paddy procurement process is November 15, this year it started only a week ago in nine of the 32 districts. So far, 793 MT paddy has been procured – against the target of 30 lakh MT – said officials involved in the procurement process.
According to official estimates, more than 80 per cent of farmers in the state have already harvested their paddy crop. On an average, the state grows around 1.60 crore MT paddy every year, out of which the government procures around 30 lakh MT paddy. In 2019-20, however, it procured a little over 20 lakh MT paddy from over 27 lakh farmers.
Several farmers told The Indian Express that they had to sell their paddy for Rs 800-Rs 1,200 per quintal in open market, although the MSP is Rs 1,868 per quintal, as the procurement process is yet to begin in their areas.
R R Roy, of Pipra village in Banka, said, “My paddy is ready but there is no place to preserve it and wait for the PACS procurement to get underway. Local traders have been exploiting farmers by giving much less price than MSP.”
A farmer from Dinara accused the PACS of delaying the procurement process deliberately so that most farmers sell out their paddy. “In some cases, local traders would get receipt of paddy sale from farmers who have already sold their paddy to local traders by offering them Rs 50-Rs 100 per quintal. PACS does transfer MSP amount to farmers, who would return money to the brokers,” alleged the farmer.
Many farmers from other areas also accused local traders of similar modus operandi.
Shambhu Sen, who is in charge of the paddy procurement process in Bihar, said, “It is true that there has been some delay in procurement but we have started it in some nine districts. We have procured 793 MT paddy so far. Procurement will speed up in the coming days.
Ramesh C Choubey, chairman of Bihar State Cooperative Bank, which assists the PACS to procure paddy in the form of loans, said, “It is true that paddy procurement should ideally start from November 15 but there are moisture issues.”
However, Alok Kumar, a Rohtas farmer, said: “We do not understand PACS’ logic of citing higher moisture of paddy to delay procurement. Let PACS deduct some amount on count of higher moisture. Local traders alone stand to gain from the state government’s apathy… ”
Bharat Singh of Tarapur, Munger, said the state government should engage multiple agencies – like in UP and some other states – for paddy procurement. “This would give more options to the farmers. MSP is a false promise as the state government procures paddy from less than 20 per cent farmers… Farmers have to stand united to force the central government to make a law ensuring MSP even in open market,” he said.