Paddy farmers from the Cauvery delta in Tamil Nadu are staring at an unbearable loss despite high yields this season. The lack of government planning in procuring their yield and the inordinate delay in shifting the procured paddy to godowns of the Tamil Nadu Civil Supplies Corporation (TNCSC) has dealt a severe blow to the farmers. Frequent rains in recent weeks has also foiled their hopes of getting the minimum support price (MSP), as drenched paddy is procured for less.
The government has claimed that procurement has reached an all time high, but the All India KISAN Sabha (AIKS) accused it of closing down procurement centres much early, leaving the paddy to be drenched in the rain and the farmers saddled with losses.
Government Underprepared for Procurement
The season saw a rise in the paddy cultivation to four lakh acres in the delta districts, with 1.5 acres of paddy cultivation in Thanjavur district alone. The state government was highly underprepared for procuring the yield. Sufficient rainfall and the opening of the Mettur Dam on June 12, the traditional date for cultivation helped the farmers as well.
In a statement, P. Shanmugam, general secretary of the Tamil Nadu Vivasayigal Sangam – affiliated to the AIKS – condemned the sluggish approach of the state government in procurement and demanded compensation for farmers affected by it.
Senthil, the Thanjavur district president of the organisation, said: “The government has failed miserably in planning for the procurement season. Many permanent procurement centres are filled with the paddy procured in the previous season, which were not shifted to TNCSC godowns. Most of the centres did not have enough sacks to collect the paddy and were too short-staffed to carry out the process”.
Though the government was aware of the increase in the paddy cultivation, enough measures were not ensured for procuring the yield.
Need Permanent Procurement Centres
The lack of permanent structures for many of the procurement centres continue result in spoiling yields of the farmers when unseasonal rains hit the region. Incessant rain over the past month has drenched the paddy kept in the open in temporary procurement centres.
Farmers organisations have been demanding more permanent procurement centres and improved facilities in the temporary procurement centres to protect their yields.
“Most of the procurement centres in the delta districts are temporary in nature, which does not even have the necessary tarpaulin sheets to protect the paddy from getting drenched. We have been demanding that the state government converts the temporary procurement centres into permanent structures. Since the demand is continuously neglected, the farmers were affected this season as well,” Senthil added.
The government has approved the procurement of paddy with up to 17% moisture in the Kuruvai season. However, farmers argue that the paddy grown during the season generally has 20% moisture and demanded that the government increase the requirement set for procurement. On Tuesday, the state government reportedly requested the Centre to consider the demand.
The temporary procurement centres, which are devoid of measures to prevent the paddy from getting drenched, increasing the moisture in the paddy as a result, result in a reduction in prices for farmers.
‘Procurement Centres Closed Early’
After claiming ‘historic procurement’ in the season, the government decided to close down procurement centres on October 1. The farmers were demanding that procurement continues till the end of the month.
“Many of the centres were procuring less than 600 sacks per day (of 60 Kg each) against the claims of 100 sacks per day. The early closure of the procurement centres meant that the paddy which arrived much earlier to the centres remained without procurement. All that paddy left in the open is of no use now, leaving the farmers with a heavy loss,” Senthil accused.
Private procurers are taking advantage of helpless farmers and are paying much less than the designated MSP. The farmers say that the private procurers pay Rs 350 less per sack than the original MSP.
“The recently passed farm bills do not ensure MSP will only play in favour of the middle men and not the farmers. As far as contractual farming is concerned, we have examples of exploitation of sugarcane farmers, who have not been paid their dues by the private mill owners for years,” Senthil added.
The farmers also alleged rampant corruption in the TNCSC as another reason for private players taking advantage of farmers waiting to sell their yield. They also said that the government not appointing permanent workers in the procurement process was the root cause for the corruption.