Observing that no specific target has been fixed for paddy procurement in Bihar this year, the state government today said that it was open to procurement as much paddy as farmers were willing to sell through cooperative agencies.
"We have deliberately not set a target for paddy procurement this year...We are ready to protect as much paddy as farmers are willing to sell through cooperative agencies like the Primary Agriculture Credit Societies (PACS) and other agencies," Cooperative Minister Alok Mehta told the assembly while replying to debate on his department's budgetary allocation of Rs 750.45 crore for 2017-18.
He said that out of 8464 PACS in Bihar, paddy procurement centres have been set in 7500 of them even as 521 Vyapar Mandals too have set up procurement centres and added that the entire exercise has been decentralised so that the farmers in every nook and corner of the state can sell their produce and reap benefit of minimum support price.
Stating that paddy procurement has been made transparent through automation of the entire process beginning with procurement to transportation to rice mills and payments which the farmers can monitor online through Apps developed for integration of procurement process, Mehta said.
The Cooperative Minister said that the state government has the best interests of marginal farmers and sharecroppers in procurement process which guarantees them minimum available price in lieu of produces, paddy in this case, and make available funds in hands so that they could use the money for sowing next crop.
Recounting delay in starting paddy procurement process, he said the state government had expanded window by a month and launched exercise from December itself, but due to high moisture content the desired results could not be achieved initially as the Centre did not grant permission to increase moisture content limit in paddy by upto 17 per cent.
From January this year, the state government stepped up procurement containing 17 per cent moisture before it gave permission to procure paddy with 19 per cent moisture, Mehta said.
(REOPENS CES 10)
With infrastructure being a bane for milling and storage of paddy/rice, the Cooperative Minister said that 60 new rice mills have been constructed in 2016-17 and the construction works were underway for 117 paddy/rice mills.
The state government has also increased rice storage capacity at 6.71 lakh tonnes out of 10 lakh tonnes proposed, he said, adding that driers will be installed at the newly-constructed rice mills to mitigate moisture content.
On nudged by the Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to speak about vegetables cooperative in Bihar, the Cooperative Minister rued that vegetables worth Rs 10,000 crore were wasted every year due to lack of storage and marketing infrastructure for which his department will set up a federation to promote vegetables cooperative throughout the state.
A corpus of Rs five crore has been created for starting vegetables cooperative federation which will work to get market and good price to the growers by providing a marketing infrastructure for vegetables throughout the state.
With ripening of fruits through calcium carbide being injurious to health of consumers, the Cooperative Minister warned those using harmful chemicals for ripening fruits which he said was punishable with imprisonment upto six years.
Mehta advocated for used of acetylene, a chemical compound, for fruit ripening.
The Cooperative Department's budgetary demands were later passed by the ruling benches by a voice vote after the opposition members staged a walk out from the House expressing dissatisfaction with the Minister's reply.