Farmers sell wheat to private players on global demand, lesser yield

With the rise in global demands of wheat, farmers across states are making a beeline to sell the produce to private players, instead of government procurement agencies, to earn a better remuneration. This has seen significant decline in government procurement in the current rabi season, which could lead to shortage of the essential commodity in future. Government’s support price for wheat is ₹2,015 per quintal, while private players have been offering a price above MSP to meet export demand. Lower yield this season also has contributed to the high demand.

The RSS-affiliated Bharatiya Kisan Sangh has demanded that the government provide ₹500 bonus to states over MSP and increase government procurement. “Our total wheat consumption is 78 crore tonnes, vis-a-vis total production of 79 crore tonnes. We are on the borderline of demand and a 15% decline in wheat production is expected this year,” BKS national organisation secretary Dinesh Kulkarni told ET. “In the absence of adequate government wheat procurement, we can face food scarcity in coming months,” he warned. BKS had written a letter to the agriculture minister on April 28 to flag the issue.

Punjab, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh have all seen fall in government procurement. Punjab, which led the farmers’ stir against the three laws, has witnessed maximum sale of wheat to private players. Till May 3, the government procured 94.62 lakh tonnes in the state, compared to 117.83LT last year in the same period. Last year, 8.27 lakh farmers sold wheat to government agencies by this time. However, in the current year, only 5.56 lakh farmers were at government centres, registering a huge decline.

On the other hand, procurement by private players in Punjab increased close to 6% of the total procurement. An official said that such high procurement was recorded in 2006-07 and 2007-08 too. Farmer unions in Punjab said it was a temporary phenomenon and farmers should not be misled. “This time, due to excessive heat, wheat production has gone down in the state and the quality of wheat has also dropped. Despite that, not all farmers have sold their produce to private players,” Kirti Kisan Union vice-president Rajinder Singh Deepsinghwala told ET. “The government is trying to justify the farm laws, saying farmers were getting a better price. But this is not permanent.” If the government really wants farmers to benefit, it should make MSP a legal right, he said.

Haryana too has seen a significant decline in government procurement as farmers opted for private players for better prices. By May 3, government agencies in Haryana procured 41.05 LT wheat from farmers. Last year, this was 80.59 LT, almost double. As per Haryana government data private players purchased 1.23 LT wheat directly from farmers as on date. “There was no private procurement in the state last year,” an official told ET. Haryana had set a target of 85 LT wheat procurement but the state is not going to meet it and it will be revised soon.

MP, the highest wheat producer after Punjab, has also seen procurement declining by almost half. In the current season, government procurement in MP stands at 36.82 LT, compared to 73.26 LT last year. MP has 1,976,707 registered wheat farmers out of which 453,773 have to sell at the government purchase centres. UP set an ambitious target of 60 LT in the current season till June 15. As on date, the state has purchased only 1.59 LT wheat in more than a month from 40,477 farmers. Last year, it purchased 14.22 LT wheat from 2.75 lakh farmers.

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