Punjab, Haryana to procure over 17 million tonnes paddy

Chandigarh, Sep 21 (IANS) Despite a poor monsoon season this year, with rainfall deficiency being 55 to 60 percent, foodgrain states Punjab and Haryana are looking forward to procurement of 17.2 million tonnes of paddy this year.

Punjab, where the paddy production and procurement is much higher than neighbouring Haryana, is in fact looking at a much higher procurement than even last year.

Food and Civil Supplies Minister Adaish Pratap Singh Kairon, who met department officers in recent days to finalise paddy procurement operations, said Punjab was eyeing to procure 13.7 million tonnes of paddy this year as against 11.8 million tonnes of paddy procured last year (2014).

Haryana is expecting to procure over 3.5 million tonnes of paddy from an expected arrival of 3.6 million tonnes this year.

The procurement in both the states begins from October 1 officially even though the bulk supplies of paddy are expected to arrive after October 10.

“All heads of the state procurement agencies are to personally supervise paddy procurement operations across the state beginning from October 1 so as to ensure prompt lifting of paddy as per their allotted share of procurement,” Kairon said here.

The higher procurement of paddy this year is being attributed to Punjab farmers preferring non-basmati varieties of paddy instead of basmati, leading to higher productivity.

Only last year, the Punjab government had encouraged farmers to shift to growing ‘basmati’ variety of paddy, which is much finer than the common paddy variety and carries a distinct smell and taste, so that the dependence on common paddy variety was minimized.

The state government had targeted procurement of over 14 million tonnes of paddy last year but fell well short of that target owing to lower productivity of the basmati variety.

“The yield of the basmati variety was much lower. The variety needs a lot of care and suitable climatic conditions,” said farmer Kirpal Singh of Rahon near Nawanshahr town.

The Punjab government has been actively trying to drastically reduce the area under water-gulping paddy cultivation.

Under its agriculture diversification mission to conserve depleting ground water, the Punjab government had announced in May this year that the area under paddy cultivation would be reduced from the present 2.65 million hectares to 1.45 million hectares over the next five years.

“The reduced area of 1.2 million hectares will be shifted to alternative crops like maize, sugarcane, cotton, pulses, fruits and vegetables besides agro-forestry in the next five years,” an agriculture department official said.

The agriculturally successful Malwa belt (south of the river Sutlej) in southwest Punjab has been facing a problem of water-logging in districts like Bathinda, Mansa and Muktsar.

Agriculture experts have been advising farmers to switch from paddy cultivation as the water table in the state was also depleting fast.

Haryana Minister of State for Food and Supplies Karan Dev Kamboj said arrival of about 3.6 million tonnes of paddy is expected in grain markets of the state this season.

“About 3.5 million tonnes of paddy would be procured by government procurement agencies at Minimum Support Price. The remaining one million tonnes of paddy is likely to be procured by private millers,” Kamboj said.

(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at jaideep.s@ians.in)

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