The farmers of Vizhupuram and neighbouring districts have been waiting for days to sell their harvested paddy at the government procurement centre in Gingee. Farmers including large number of women are waiting at the centre which lacks even the basic facilities. They also face the threat of thousands of sacks of paddy getting soaked in case of rainfall.
Earlier, the state government had announced setting up of 38 procurement centres across the state excluding delta districts since the harvesting season has just ended.
With the harvest festival of Pongal in less than a week’s time, the farmers eagerly wait at the procurement centre to sell their harvested paddy. They are having a mixed season of harvest as the state received high rainfall facilitating high paddy yield; however, quality of paddy was also slightly affected due to the excess rainfall. This has effectively halved the price of the paddy, delivering a severe blow to the farmers.
The announcement of setting up of procurement centres came as a relief, as they could sell their yield and get ready for the next season after Pongal celebrations. But their agony has now increased, as they are being made to wait for days for their yield to be procured by the government. A farmer waiting at the centre said, “We got high yield due to the rain, but the rain reduced the quality of the paddy as well. The cost has been fixed at a low price which will severely affect us.”
The surrounding hills which house variety of medicinal plants have played a role in increasing the paddy yield. “The district received high rainfall this season which helped the paddy cultivation with a high yield. The rain water flowing into the fields from the hills had added to the yield of the farmers. But now, they are struggling to sell their yield as the procurement centres have huge staff shortage. When we visited the centre today [Thursday], the farmers who arrived on Sunday were still waiting for their turn for procurement. The government should act fast to rectify this,” said S Neduncheralathan, Gingee area secretary of Communist Party of India (Marxist).
The Gingee procurement centre is used by thousands of farmers from Vizhupuram and neighboring districts to sell their paddy yield every year. But the centre still lacks basic amenities. “We are waiting under the hot sun for the government to procure our yield. If it rains, all our hard work will be reduced to nothing. The cost of the paddy will further reduce if it gets wet in the rain,” another farmer said.
The farmers are not in a position to take the yield back and come to the procurement centre later again. “They have spent thousands to bring their yield here. They cannot go back and come again spending few more thousands for transportation, loading and unloading,” said Neduncheralathan.
The farmers have been demanding the state and union governments to fix the minimum support price of paddy at Rs. 3,000. But, the union government had announced in July 2019 that it will be Rs1815 and Rs.1835 for one quintal of common and Grade A paddy variety respectively. The state government, too, did not come to their rescue as Rs 50 and Rs 70 were announced as incentives for the two paddy varieties. The farmers who were not amused by these two announcements are facing further price reduction and long waiting in the queues to sell off their procurement.