Chandigarh: With the Rabi harvesting and procurement season set to start tomorrow, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, reiterating his demand for incentive/bonus to farmers bringing in their produce to the Mandis after April 30, to check overcrowding at the markets.
The Chief Minister said the Centre should immediately announce a bonus of Rs. 100/- per quintal over and above MSP to the farmers for bringing wheat for marketing after May 1, 2020 and Rs. 200/- per quintal after May 31, in order to compensate them for the additional cost for handling the produce for staggering the marketing and the reduction in yield.
Amid COVID-19, the cost in paying the incentive bonus would be offset by the resultant saving in the cost of health care, which otherwise would have to be incurred in case of spread of this deadly virus, wrote the Chief Minister.
It could not be overemphasized that the farmers must be encouraged to follow the health advisories in this extraordinary situation the nation is facing, while ensuring the national food security necessary procurement arrangements are in place accordingly, he said.
Captain Amarinder pointed out that Punjab hasd been contributing about 30-35% of wheat procured for the central pool to ensure required buffer stocks of the country. The state is expecting harvest of about 18.5 million MTs of wheat during Rabi 2019-20 and market arrivals are likely to be about 13.5 million MTs.
The Chief Minister further informed Modi that the normal marketing season for wheat is from 1st April to 31st May but apart from the damage due to untimely rains and hailstorm during the March and April 2020 in some parts of the State, the lockdown/curfew in the State to contain COVID-19 had delayed the harvesting of wheat. Heavy rains and hailstorm during this period had also resulted in lodging of the wheat crop in some areas.
The farmers had to incur extra expenditure to drain out the accumulated water in their fields to save the crop. Further, the flattening of the crop would also cause reduction in yield. The high input cost, extra expenditure on draining out excessive water from the fields and loss of the maturing crop had put the hardworking farmers of the state under tremendous stress, he added.
Captain Amarinder further said that in view of the threat of the coronavirus pandemic, the state had already made elaborate arrangements for procurement of wheat. The number of purchase centers had been almost doubled from 1820 last year to 3791 during the current Rabi Marketing Season to ensure social distancing, and staggering of wheat arrivals in these centers has been planned by limiting the daily arrivals and extending procurement season up to 30th June. This was also required due to shortage of agriculture labourers on account of the prevalent pandemic in the state, which would involve an extra expenditure for the farmer in terms of unloading at home after the harvest, as well as the storage and reloading at the time of marketing.
Resultantly, the farmers were being forced to stager the marketing as the cost in terms of spread of pandemic and subsequent expenditure on providing healthcare may be much more, added Captain Amarinder.