THE Centre decision to ban exports of non-basmati and the subsequent boycott of paddy purchase from procurement centres and mandis in Punjab and Haryana by the rice exporters have made the farmers the ultimate looser. Both the chief ministers of Punjab and Haryana have assured farmers not to be misled by anyone and the ban would be lifted soon.
Punjab chief minister Prakash Singh Badal has said that as a farmer he understands the plight of the farmers and will take up the issue to lift the ban. Similarly Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda has said, "I have already spoken to Union commerce minister Kamal Nath and urged him to take back the decision keeping in view the interest of the farming community of the country. But, today I will call on the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh in the evening."
The government agencies, agriculture department and rice exporters in the region had assured farmers to get better gain with the sowing of long grain varieties like Sharbati, 1121 and Muchhal. Apart from consuming less water, these varieties had great demand and market in Middle East, Dubai, Iran.
However for now with rate falling down by Rs 200-Rs 250, it's the stranded farmer who is being taken advantage off by arthiyas and small-large rice shellers. " This is a trap by these rice millers and traders," said 75-year-old Balkar Singh who has been sitting with his produce in Kapurthala mandi for the past 5 days. "It was for the first time that I had sown the crop rather then the other Parmal varieties where I get an assured MSP. Its time when farmers should sell their land to companies than be hounded by the traders," he said.
In Karnal Vinod Goel, President of Anaj Mandi said that 1121 was being sold at Rs 1,850 per quintal from Rs 2,050 per quintal a week ago. Sharbati was being sold at Rs 1,300-1,350 per quintal from Rs 1,650 per quintal. Duplicate Basmati (Muchal) was being sold at Rs 2,350 per quintal aweek ago now its rate is Rs 2,100 per quintal. A similar scenario prevailed across Punjab and other mandis in Haryana
"Most of the Mandis in Karnal-Panipat-Terawri –Narela on the GT Road were getting more than 25-30% stock of paddy from Western UP. The majority of the farmers from Shamli, Kairana, Muzzafarnagar, Gangoh area have now stopped coming to this area due to the ban," Mr Goel said.
Taking advantage of the scenario a number of regional rice shellers across Punjab and Haryana have started purchasing the long grain varieties rather than Parmal varieties. "Rather than purchasing the Parmal varieties like PR 47, Pusa 44, PR 13 it is advantageous to invest in the varieties which has been banned and sell it a higher rate later on," said a trader in Pehowa mandi
Though a number of farmers are holding their stock others in dire need of cash are selling at the current rates. Arjan Singh from village Shatirwala, (10 km from Fazilka) said that even though his 40-quintal stock was in the Fazilka mandi since the past few days the family was still holding 150 quintals of 1121 variety at home. " My father has to send my brother to USA and hence we have to sell the paddy at any rate, even though it means loosing Rs 600-Rs 1,000 per quintal " he said.
Not showing any sign to stop the agitation started by All India Rice Exporter Association, its president Vijay Setia said,"Sensex looses 10% and FM is forced to give statements and make policy changes and here we lose 30% in three days and no one notices?" He added that the plight of the farmers was unbearable but the traders had no option but to carry on the strike. The association had earlier demanded that the material on the ports either be loaded on ship, on the port or on transit with orders prior to October 9 should be honoured by the the centre.