After initial glitches in the procurement software and a slew of complaints from farmers in many districts, wheat procurement has now gathered pace in Madhya Pradesh.
MP began procurement on April 15, nearly three weeks later than the initial schedule, due to COVID-19 lockdown restrictions. By late Thursday, the state had procured 10.46 lakh MT wheat from 2.49 lakh farmers — 2.35 lakh MT has already been transported.
Very few farmers had turned up at the 4,305 procurement centres in 48 districts in the first couple of days. Many had received text messages saying only a certain quantity will be purchased from them. A government official claimed such messages had gone out due to a software glitch and the fault has been corrected.
The government is buying wheat at Rs 1,925 per quintal from the farmers.
Another shock awaited farmers when they realised that a part of outstanding farm loans was deducted from the procurement value.
In some districts, there were complaints that other deductions were also being made. Agriculture Minister Govind Rajput said instructions have been given to deduct only 50 per cent of the regular crop loan given in 2019-20.
After more than a decade, the government has relaxed norms to allow farmers to sell wheat directly to traders under a system called ‘souda patrak’. The trader can buy from any place outside the mandi, including the farmer’s doorstep, and the sale is recorded in mandi records. It’s not binding on the trader to buy wheat at MSP but the farmer is saved the trouble of transporting the wheat to the mandi.
There is also the system of auction on the mandi premises in the presence of mandi officials. But due to lockdown, many mandis were closed and porters were not available, which prompted the government to reintroduce the ‘souda patrak’ practice.
The government said ‘souda patrak’ sales will continue till June 30 but the government procurement will end on May 31. It said nearly 81 per cent sales registered in mandis were through ‘souda patraks’.
While last year 1.1 lakh MT was sold through mandis till now, this time the volume has increased to 2.14 lakh MT in the corresponding period. The government’s wheat procurement target is 110 lakh MT.
Principal Secretary Shivshekhar Shukla said the government has transferred Rs 200 crore to banks and farmers will soon get the money in their bank accounts.
Farm activist Kedar Sirohi said the government’s procurement plan is anything but foolproof. He said the government is not likely to buy even 70 per cent of its target at the current pace. He said traders are paying Rs 300 less to farmers and there is a lot of underreporting to save mandi tax. “Why should a trader pay mandi tax if he is not using the mandi infrastructure,’’ he asked.
Former agriculture minister Sachin Yadav said the government should ensure that the farmer gets the entire procurement value by instructing cooperative banks not to deduct outstanding crop loan amount. He said farmers would be forced to sell to traders at less than the MSP.
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