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Thursday, May 19, 2022

Rajasthan wheat mandis empty as pvt buyers go directly to farmers

The labourers complain about lack of work. And the farmers say they have come from Jordkia village in the district's Padampur tehsil — not to sell kanak (wheat), but sarson (mustard).

Written by Anju Agnihotri Chaba |
Updated: April 28, 2022 10:30:38 am
Wheat procurement, Wheat procurement crisis, Rajasthan’s Sri Ganganagar, wheat farmers, Indian Express, India news, current affairs, Indian Express News Service, Express News Service, Express News, Indian Express India NewsLabourers filling and stitching the few bags of wheat at the APMC mandi in Sri Ganganagar. Anju Agnihotri Chaba

Sri Ganganagar, Hanumangarh (Rajasthan): THIS IS usually peak season for wheat procurement, when mandis are bustling with farmers, labourers, commission agents, officers from government agencies and private buyers.

But the “new” APMC (Agricultural Produce Market Committee) mandi at Rajasthan’s Sri Ganganagar — a sprawling, 27-acre complex with over 200 shops established in late-2017 — has barely a dozen labourers, and just three farmers.

The labourers complain about lack of work. And the farmers say they have come from Jordkia village in the district’s Padampur tehsil — not to sell kanak (wheat), but sarson (mustard).

“I have already sold my kanak for Rs 2,250 per quintal, above the sarkari rate (minimum support price or MSP) of Rs 2,015. The dalal (agent) of a private company picked it up at that price directly from my field,” says Som Dutt Bishnoi, who had sown wheat on seven of his 11-bigha holding this time — a hectare comprises about 4 bigha of land.

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Mangi Lal Bishnoi has, likewise, sold his entire wheat on six out of ten bigha to the same agent (“I don’t know which company he’s from”) at the same price. Sukhchain Singh, the third farmer, says his situation is no different.

This story is repeated across  most APMC mandis in Sri Ganganagar and Hanumangarh, the two northern districts of Rajasthan bordering Punjab that are also the state’s leading wheat producers. All of them wear a deserted look — unusual for this time— with a handful of farmers coming with their tractor-trolleys laden only with mustard or chana (chickpea).

At Sri Ganganagar’s “old” APMC mandi, Gurdeep Singh has just sold his mustard crop at Rs 6,800 per quintal, which is also way above the official MSP of Rs 5,050. “It’s worth bringing sarson here, but for my kanak, I am saving transport, loading, unloading and cleaning charges by selling directly from the field. Traders are paying me Rs 2,700-2,800/quintal for Raj-1482 (a quality wheat variety) and Rs 2,250-2,300/quintal for normal HD-3086 and 2851 varieties. Why should I sell at MSP?” asks the farmer who has planted wheat on half of his 50-bigha land in Jodhewala village, about 25 km from Sri Ganganagar.

At the APMC in Hanumangarh town, The Indian Express could spot only a couple of farmers, who were from Munsari village of Nohar tehsil.

“A local flour miller bought my wheat for Rs 2,300 per quintal. The government should have paid us more this time, especially when our crop has been badly hit due to the sudden jump in temperatures in March (at the crucial grain-filling stage, when the kernels accumulate starch and nutrients),” complains Dharam Singh. He is an 18-bigha farmer, whose wheat yields from 12 bigha averaged only 11 quintals/bigha, as against 14 quintals last year.

What these farmers have to say is borne out by data on procurement.

As on Tuesday, government agencies had bought a mere 694 tonnes of wheat from Hanumangarh and 37 tonnes from Sri Ganganagar during the current rabi marketing season, which starts from March 15. Last year, procurement from the two districts for the whole season was over 1.3 million tonnes.

“Normally, 85-90 per cent of procurement gets over by April-end and the balance 10-15 per cent in May. This time, not only government procurement, but even total APMC arrivals are much lower,” admitted an official from Rajasthan’s agriculture marketing department.

In Ganganagar district, total wheat arrivals last marketing season was 6.29 lakh tonnes (lt), and in Hanumangarh 7.25 lt. This year, only 92,233 tonnes have so far reached Ganganagar’s APMCs and 1.07 lt in Hanumangarh. The bulk of even this wheat has been cornered by private players.

The official attributed the vastly reduced arrivals to an increase in “off-mandi transactions” (direct sales by farmers) and lower crop. The area sown under wheat and yields are down compared to last year.

“There is definitely a shortage. I normally buy about 25,000 tonnes from the mandis. This time, I decided to double my purchases, including from outside mandis, paying Rs 2,250 per quintal. I expect prices to go up and do not want to take any chances,” said a large private flour miller from Sri Ganganagar, who did not wish to be identified.

Among the big losers are the mandi labourers.

Mahesh Kumar, who is from Supaul in Bihar, has been coming to the Hanumangarh APMC for the past nine years. This time, too, he arrived on March 1 along with 70 other labourers. “There was work for 10 days, but suddenly farmers stopped bringing their crop to the mandi. Hum toh makkhi maar rahe hai (we are swatting flies),” he remarks.

At least 35 out of his 70 colleagues have already gone back to Bihar. “I am also planning to return,” he says.

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