Paddy procurement in the current kharif marketing season is witnessing a sluggish pace in Uttar Pradesh with the target of purchasing five million tonnes (mt) looking difficult to achieve.
While more than 55 days, or roughly 38 per cent of the total five months mandated for paddy procurement during October-February, have passed, the Yogi Adityanath government has managed to purchase only about 245,000 tonnes of the cash crop from less than 30,000 state farmers.
The state has only been able to procure about five per cent of its massive target so far.
Last year, the Adityanath government had clocked almost double the paddy procurement figure during the same period. It had procured roughly 920,000 tonnes from more than 236,000 farmers by the end of November 2017. They were paid nearly Rs 15.30 billion during the same period last year, against the current payment level of little over Rs 3.62 billion.
Talking to Business Standard, a senior state food and civil supplies department official conceded that the process of procurement was slow this year owing to certain amended norms, especially with regards to rice mills, which had been demanding higher milling charges, apart from other exemptions, citing narrower margins every successive season.
Recently, the chief minister also expressed displeasure over the slow procurement and directed officials to speed up the process so that the target is achieved.
Paddy procurement started from October 1 in western UP and some central UP districts. It will continue until the end of January 2019. The process in eastern UP and the remaining central UP districts started from November 1. This will continue until the end of February 2019.
Earlier, the state Cabinet had increased the paddy minimum support price (MSP) by Rs 180 to Rs 200 per quintal (100 kg) depending upon grade. While the price was revised from Rs 1,550 per quintal to Rs 1,750 per quintal for the common variety, the corresponding figure for Grade-A paddy was upped from Rs 1,590 per quintal to Rs 1,770 per quintal.
The state government had also announced a bonus of Rs 20 per quintal over the MSP, up from the Rs 15 per quintal bonus last year.
If the Adityanath government is able to achieve its procurement target of 5 MT, the total payout to the state's farmers is projected to hit almost Rs 85 billion. In 2016-17 and 2017-18, UP's paddy procurement stood at 3.5 mt and 4.3 mt, respectively, against the target of 5 mt.
During the current kharif season, the UP paddy acreage is estimated at 6 million hectares (MH). The state is one of the topmost food grains producers, including paddy, wheat, and maize, apart from millets and coarse grains.
To achieve the target of doubling rural income, the government is looking to promote cultivation of crops, like millets and maize, among others, which require lower farm inputs and water for irrigation.