No Use of Wheat Procurement Centres as MSP Rate is Lower, Say UP Farmers
Lucknow: The tall claim made by the Yogi Adityanath government about setting up around 5,500 wheat procurement centres across Uttar Pradesh have fallen flat, as many anaj mandis (grain markets) remained closed for most of the day on Thursday, baring for a few hours in the morning, due to the nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus. As a result, several farmers were left trying hard to offload their produce.
Several farmer union leaders said the government should have made maximum procurement of wheat through primary agriculture cooperative societies (PACSs) at the village or panchayat level in order to provide necessary relief to farmers in this hour of crisis caused due to the lockdown. Opening wheat procurement centres won't be help farmers as farmers often don't get remunerative prices, they added.
In Uttar Pradesh, the rabi season harvest is underway and almost 40% of wheat is ready to be sold in the market. The government’s announcement that around 5,500 wheat procurement centres were being set up where farmers could easily sell their grain and transport their produce at the government-mandated Minimum Support Price (MSP) of Rs 19.25 per kg, had therefore raised hopes among farmers, but the ground reality is totally different.
Uncertainty Over Wheat Crop Procurement.
Mahipal, a 52-year-old small farmer with two acres of farmland in Maharajganj in Uttar Pradesh, is harvesting what’s left of his wheat crop with his two sons and wife. Most of his crop was destroyed by untimely rain and hailstorm. He said his family was left with just Rs 2,000 to survive, as his sons, who used to work in a brick kiln, had lost their jobs after the nationwide coronavirus lockdown was imposed on March 24.
"Most farmers in my village prefer to sell their produce to private traders who set up shops in a small settlement a few kilometres from the village. This year, too, they may come home," he added, wondering whether they would be willing to match the government-mandated MSP or not.
Many farmers NewsClick spoke to complained that there was no labour to harvest their standing crop. Some said their families were being pushed to the brink with no money. With their jobs gone, the crops could help them sustain themselves, however, losing the crop would mean starvation.
Harinam Singh Verma, vice-president of Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), Uttar Pradesh,however, seems unhappy with the procurement centres, saying that it won't help farmers due to social distancing.
"Like every year, the government has opened procurement centres across the state this year also, but it won't work because the farmers will not be able to reach there. Fifty per cent of standing crops are still in the field and this will continue till April-end. Once the crop is harvested, another issue will pop up -- that the quality of wheat crop is damaged by hailstorm so it is not worth to buy it. The secretary will then force farmers to run from pillar to post, and finally, farmers will sell it to private players at a low rate, Rs 16 to 17 per kg, not what the government has set."
Verma said during the ongoing lockdown period, farmers were having a tough time not only due to shortage of labourers but also unavailability of combine harvesters, which may hit harvesting.
Farmers Getting Low Price Amid Lockdown
Prem Singh, a farmer leader in Banda, said: "Though the government has started procuring crop from farmers at a government mandated rate of Rs 19.25 per kg, the district authorities haven’t set up any procurement centre yet in Banda. Also, the price set by the government is lower than what the consumer is giving. The farmers are getting Rs 21-22/kg by consumers but the government is giving Rs 2 less per kg, which is a huge loss for farmers. I don't think any farmer will sell grain at such a low rate.”
Gorakhpur district president of Bharatiya Kisan Union (BHANU), Maheshwar Singh, told Newsclick, "There is no benefit of the procurement centres as small farmers are never able reach there, and those who sell their grains, do not get paid on time. Even this time the farmers are not happy with the rate the government has decided. At these mandis,farmers sell their produce to wholesalers at the price decided by them with the help of brokers and agents. The wholesalers then sell it to mills and retailers, who in turn sell to consumers. Besides this, the government is giving licensesto brokers who buy grains at throwaway rates, which will benefit big traders."
"The government should buy grains directly from farmers and should release tokens in the name of farmers but that does not happen," he added.
On Monday, the Uttar Pradesh government said it had made preparations for the purchase of wheat and was taking steps to ensure that farmers do not face any hardship amid the nationwide coronavirus lockdown. The state government looks to buy 55 lakh tonnes of wheat at a rate of Rs 1,925 per quintal (100 kg) at 5,500 purchase centres, a release issued by the state government stated.
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