This is peak rabi sowing season, but in Bareilly district of Uttar Pradesh, the demand for new seeds of wheat and fertilisers has dropped by two-thirds since the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes. Although the government has cleared Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes for government-run seed stores, there has been no such relief for those seeking to buy fertilisers.
The number of government-run seed and fertiliser stores, in any case, is less than the number of those run by primary agriculture cooperative societies (PACS).
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The objective of disallowing old notes at cooperatives and their banks is that these are controlled by politicians. To the farmer, what this has meant unavailability of fertiliser and, as a consequence, a delay in the sowing of wheat.
“Delayed sowing will impact production,” said B S Tomar, who has been in charge of the Seed Production Unit of Wheat at the Indian Agriculture Research Institute at Delhi. “For instance, the production of certain varieties of wheat will go down to 18 kilograms per day per acre if the seeds are not sown before November 25.”
“Before they banned the old notes, about 100 farmers would come to us every day to buy fertilisers diammonium phosphate (DAP) and nitrogen phosphorus potassium (NPK). Now this number has come down to about 25 to 30,” said Horam Singh, secretary of the cooperative fertiliser store at Bithri Chainpur block of Bareilly. “Earlier, most of them would pay in cash, now they have been asking for credit,” Singh said.
“If I had money for fertilisers, I would have finished sowing by this time. Now I am trying to get fertilisers on credit,” said Mahendra Singh, a farmer in Balipur village.
“Usually, by this time, my store would have been empty. But now, most of the stock is piling up. Farmers come with old notes, so I send them away,” said Horam Singh.
And Subhash Chauhan, who runs a seed store at Bithri Chainpur block, said, “Until November 8 we would sell 25-30 quintals seed to farmers every day, but since then we have hardly been selling 7-8 quintals per day.”
Even the announcement that old notes will be accepted in government-run seed stores is not expected to bring much relief to farmers. Said Anjum Khan, secretary of Rampur’s District Cooperative Bank, “In my district only six stores are run by the government whereas 64 are run by cooperatives. You can see what the problem is like.” Bareilly has 15 government-run stores to 142 run by cooperatives. A ratio of one in about 10 is uniform all over UP.
Farmers said the businessmen whom they sell to have tried to take advantage of the crisis. Omkar Singh, a farmer from Saidulpur Kurmian block, said, “Yesterday, I sold wheat to a businessman who said he would pay me Rs 2,200 per quintal in old currency but only Rs 1,800 per quintal if I insisted on new notes. So I sold it at Rs 2,200 and now I have to go to the banks to exchange those notes.”