Punjab food supplies and consumer affairs minister Bharat Bhushan Ashu said the state has decided to start the wheat procurement from April 15 instead of April 1 after consultation with the central government.
Haryana, which will start procurement of mustard on April 15, has asked farmers to store their harvested crop at home before the procurement process starts. Normally, procurement of mustard starts in the last week of March and wheat from first week of April in Haryana and Punjab.
Haryana has also issued directions to ensure that the combine machines coming from Punjab or other areas for harvesting wheat in the state are not restricted or stopped.
The Food Corporation of India (FCI) has started transportation of foodgrains from Punjab godowns to other states on daily basis. To create required space in the state godowns, 50,000 metric tonnes of rice and wheat were transported out of Punjab through 20 special trains to other states on Thursday. Also, to ensure uninterrupted supply chain and food security during the countrywide lockdown, similar exercise would continue in the coming days as well.
FCI has 576 godowns in Punjab with the storage capacity of 235 lakh metric tonnes (LMT) and have around 175 LMT grain, including 100 LMT rice and 75 LMT wheat. Around 130 LMT of wheat is expected to arrive in 1,800 grain markets across Punjab grain markets in this Rabi season. Punjab expects there would be enough space in the godowns for storage of wheat by the time it starts procurement of wheat.
Haryana agriculture and farmers welfare minister J P Dalal told TOI that normally procurement of wheat is completed by mid-May but this time it will be extended by another 15 days to ensure that any hindrance or delay caused due to lockdown is compensated. Dalal also claimed that on account of rain in the last week of February, the harvest would anyway have reached mandis late because of late maturity, thus the procurement of mustard would be started from April 15 and wheat from April 20.
Dalal accepted labourers, mostly from Uttar Pradesh or Bihar, might not make it for this season’s wheat harvest. The entire focus would be on local labour or use of combine harvesters, he added.
“The crop of mustard as well wheat is little late this time. Had it not rained this time, mustard would have started coming to markets. The procurement process would be delayed by 10 days but we will extend it by 15 days. There would not be any problem in harvesting, transportation and procurement for which a final plan would be released soon,” he added.
Haryana’s additional chief secretary, department of agriculture and farmers welfare on Thursday wrote a letter to the Union secretary for food and public distribution department, seeking approval for reimbursement of incentives for wheat procurement. The letter contained a proposal seeking reimbursement package to incentivise farmers in view of the state government’s plan of delayed and staggered procurement.
However, Rakesh Bains, spokesperson of Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU), Haryana, said farmers are in deep stress because of delay in releasing any blue print by the state government regarding procurement process. He also said that the delay in procurement would lead to damage of crop in the fields.
“The biggest problem is of harvesting of crop. Farmers don’t know how they would do it in absence of labour. The rapeseed/mustard has started falling down in the fields. Even at some places, the movement of farmers is being restricted to retrain them from visiting their fields,” the BKU leader claimed.