Odisha: Paddy procurement policy affecting Sambalpur’s farmers

By Mamata Sahu

Sambalpur

Farmers waiting endlessly to sell paddy on the given deadline Source: The New Indian Express

Babulal Khadia, 30, was unable to sell his paddy crops in Sambalpur, Odisha’s Gadamunda village because he was unable to harvest in time for the deadline instituted by the government.

Khadia has 1.5 acres of land on which he grows paddy with an eye on government procurement of his crop for its food security programs. He lives in a small hut (in the middle of his plot.

This crop of paddy is very important to him. It signifies hope for a better future as he would use the money to fulfill his aspiration of building a house for himself. The money required for the plantation of crops in the next season is also gathered from the sale of the paddy crop. 

from the left, Babulal Khadia, who is affected by the Paddy procurement policy standing with his brother

In 2019, farmers had staged huge protests against the token system. There are still grave concerns among big farmers with the regard to the future of the paddy procurement policy of the state. 

According to the Primary Agricultural Cooperative Society of Sambalpur, a total of 776 farmers of the Metropolitan corporation area had registered for paddy procurement. They were given a deadline of 12 days to finish harvesting and sell the grain to the government. Some 35 farmers were not able to for various reasons. Khadia was among them.

“Where would I find labourers and a harvesting machine in such a short span of time during lockdown restriction, hence the paddy crops could not be harvested within 12 days,” Babulal Khadia said.

 It is highly difficult for the farmers like Babulal khadia to arrange labourers, and harvesting machines, and complete harvesting, packaging, loading and thereafter delivering paddy to market in 12 days of a short period of time during the time of the pandemic.

Later, when he did manage to harvest with the help of a few friends, he had to sell the paddy privately, because he missed the deadline for government procurement. That entailed a loss of Rs13,400. To make matters worse, Khadia had taken Rs 20,000 for fertilizers. He says he has no enough money to pay off the loan and start further paddy plantation for the next season. 

 “I have not started planting paddy for the Kharif season, lost my mother this week, and don’t even have money to do 13 days of mourning,” Khadia said.

The paddy procurement department, Deputy Registrar Cooperative Society office, Sambalpur stated two reasons for providing 12 days selling period to farmers: that the Odisha government can’t buy paddy crops at a time as the government wants to regulate the procurement process smoothly so that buying crops phase by phase from all farmers within a particular deadline.  In addition at this time of the year, the advancing monsoon might destroy stored grain. Hence the 12day deadline.

Deputy Registrar Cooperative Society (DRCS), Lingraj Naik stated that “We are giving grace time of 15 days for selling if a farmer is not able to sell during the deadline. On being asked why farmers are not aware of these extra 15 days and complaining about token lapses, he said, “Token lapses are rare. In the last 7-8 years, more than 95% of paddy procurement has been done.”

“The 12-day token system has attracted a lot of criticism. Farmer leaders like Ashok Pradhan are demanding an extension of the token period or the complete abolition of the token system and changes in paddy procurement policy,” Western Odisha’s Farmers’ organization coordination committee’s convener, Ashok Pradhan said

He also added that “Restriction of selling on farmers by giving a particular date of the token will not benefit any farmers.”