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Amid farmer protests, Centre orders ‘immediate’ procurement of paddy in Haryana, Punjab

The Kharif Marketing Season 2020-21 for paddy was scheduled to commence from the next week in all the procuring States, but the Centre has allowed procurement operations to begin from Saturday in both these states.

Written by Harikishan Sharma | New Delhi | Updated: September 26, 2020 7:14:15 pm
Punjab farm bills, Punjab farmer protests, farm bills Punjab, farm bills, farmer protests, India news, Indian ExpressProtesting farmers block NH-1 near Ladowal toll plaza in Ludhiana on Friday during a "Chakka jam" against three farm bills. (Express Photo by Gurmeet Singh/File)

Amid farmers’ protest against contentious farm bills, the government on Saturday ordered commencement of procurement operations for kharif paddy “immediately” in Punjab and Haryana.

The Kharif Marketing Season (KMS) 2020-21 for paddy was scheduled to commence from the next week in all the procuring States, but the Centre has allowed procurement operations to begin from Saturday in both these states.

Announcing the decision, Food Secretary Sudhanshu Pandey said that the government has taken “extraordinary” steps to help the farmers. “To help the farmers, Govt has taken extraordinary step by preponing Kharif Procurement from today itself. Orders have been issued and State procurement agencies and FCI have been mobilized fully to start operations in view of early paddy arrivals in Mandis,” Pandey tweeted.

Later, in a statement, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution said, “The Kharif Marketing Season (KMS) 2020-21 for paddy/ rice is already scheduled to commence in all the procuring States w.e.f. 1st of October, 2020 and State Procuring Agencies including FCI are in a state of readiness for smoothly undertaking procurement operations.”

“However, in view of early arrival of paddy in the ‘mandies’ of Haryana and Punjab, Government of India has approved the commencement of procurement operations for paddy/ rice immediately in both these States from today i.e. with effect from 26th September, 2020 to ensure that farmers are facilitated in selling their produce at Minimum Support Price (MSP) expeditiously,” the statement said.

“Orders for commencement of procurement operations for paddy /rice from 26th September, 2020 in Haryana and Punjab have been issued,” it added.

The move comes at time when farmers in Punjab and Haryana are protesting against the contentious farm bills — The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020; and The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020, and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020.

While farmers are protesting against all three bills, their main objections are against the first, which provides for creation of a “trade area” outside the existing APMC Mandis. While there is no mention of MSP in the all three bills, farmers fear that if the mandi system comes to an end then the MSP will be ended too.

The government has clarified that the MSP will continue.

“We have declared Rabi MSP before sowing of crops and the kharif crop is due in a few days, which will be procured on MSP. The Prime Minister has said that the MSP will continue, so why does anyone need to worry? And MSP has nothing to do with these bills. The bills deal with trade outside the Mandi premises,” Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar told the The Indian Express earlier this week.

Also read | The basis of MSP: How is it fixed, and how binding is it?

The government fixes MSP of 22 “mandated agricultural crops” and the Fair and Remunerative Price (FRP) for Sugarcane based on the recommendations of the Commission for Agricultural Costs & Prices (CACP).

In the last kharif season (KMS 2019-20), a total quantity of 512 lakh metric tonnes of paddy was procured from 23 states. However, biggest quantity of paddy was procured from Punjab (109 lakh tonnes metric tonnes), and the state was followed by Telangana (73 LMT), Andhra Pradesh (54 LMT), Chhattisgarh (49 LMT), Odisha (47 LMT) and Haryana (43 LMT)

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