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Thursday, July 19, 2018

Poll effect in Gujarat: Godowns bursting with groundnut on record govt procurement

NAFED began procurement on October 25, just two days after dates for the Gujarat polls were announced.

Written by Gopal B Kateshiya | Rajkot | Published: January 4, 2018 2:22:03 am
gujarat, gujarat farmer, gujarat groundnut farmer, gujarat farmer distress, agricultural household, Threshing of groundnut in progress at a farm near Rajkot. (Express File Photo: Gopal Kateshiya )

The National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (Nafed) has procured a record 6.57 lakh tonnes (lt) of groundnut so far from Gujarat in the current kharif marketing season. Its purchases — that figure could go up further — have benefited an estimated 3.39 lakh farmers, with the government shelling out close to Rs 3,000 crore.

NAFED began procurement on October 25, just two days after dates for the Gujarat polls were announced. The BJP government in the state had earlier, about a month before the Election Commission of India released its poll schedule, stated that it would intervene in the market to protect growers from losses in a bumper production year.

The kharif groundnut marketing season begins in late-October and goes on till early-February. The state government had declared a bonus of Rs 50 over the Centre’s MSP of Rs 4,450 a quintal, taking the effective procurement rate to Rs 4,500. The Centre has permitted NAFED to procure 8 lt from Gujarat — out of the state’s estimated output of 32 lt, against 29 lt and 15 lt in the preceding two seasons.

NAFED, which has opened 253 procurement centres, mostly in the Saurashtra, Kutch and north Gujarat regions, has purchased 6.57 lt as on January 2. This groundnut is worth Rs 2,958 crore, inclusive of the state government’s roughly Rs 33 crore bonus component. Out of this amount, Rs 1,813.49 crore of payment has already been made to farmers.

“This is a record procurement, over three times what we did in Gujarat last season. And we are still buying,” NAFED chairman Vaghji Patel told The Indian Express. In 2016-17, it had purchased 2.10 lt of groundnut worth Rs 868 crore (at an MSP of Rs 4,220 per quintal) from Gujarat. Prior to that, it had bought 3.38 lt in 2013-14 from 7 states: Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, UP and Odisha. As the subsequent 2 years recorded low output, NAFED’s procurement was limited to a mere 8,817 tonnes from AP and Gujarat in 2014-15 and not a single grain the following season.

Out of the 6.57 lt procured from Gujarat, around 5 lt has been from 11 districts of Saurashtra, the state’s groundnut bowl. Saurashtra farmers also constitute 2.4 lakh out of the 3.39 lakh growers from whom purchases have been made. The unprecedented market intervention, however, has not proved electorally rewarding: The ruling BJP won only 19 out of the region’s 48 Assembly seats this time, compared to 30 in the 2012 state polls.

The state has requested the Centre to revise upward the state’s procurement quota. “Our estimate of production is 32 lt, of which 40 per cent or 12 lt would be of fair average quality. We have sought a rise in the procurement quota from 8 lt to 12 lt,” said Naresh Kathad, additional director at the state’s department of agriculture and farmers’ welfare. Daily procurement, which was 20,000-odd tonnes till a few days ago, has since halved. This, even as the authorities are struggling to find godown space for the current crop — over and above the one lt or so still lying unsold from the quantity procured in 2016-17. However, Kathad said that additional storage capacity of 1.5 lt has been identified and procurement will not suffer for lack of space. The massive government procurement operations notwithstanding, groundnut prices in agriculture produce markets of Gujarat are still hovering around Rs 4,000 per quintal.

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