The absence of direct procurement centres (DPCs) for paddy on minimum supportprice (MSP) has turned into a blessing for middlemen, who have been taking advantage of the financial constraints on growers by purchasing the produce at low rates.
The MSP scheme to procure paddy from growers, at a cost of Rs. 1,759 a quintal, was announced by the State government in November 2018. However, instead of establishing DPCs, the task of procuring paddy has been entrusted to rice mill owners this time. According to the conditions imposed, mill owners have to provide bank guarantee (or hypothecate their properties at banks) to commence the process.
The owners are feeling the heat of service charges and other financial obligations to abide by the stipulated conditions, and are thus hesitating to procure paddy from farmers.
According to Kumuda Sharath, Deputy Director of the Department of Food and Civil Supplies, only 14 of the 250 mills have provided bank guarantees so far.
In this scenario, according to farmers, middle men are making hay, procuring paddy at low rates from growers who are in dire need for money. Furthermore, the inordinate delay in procurement of paddy is forcing farmers to turn to middlemen and private procurers, said Shambhunahalli Suresh, district president of Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha.
Middlemen, especially from Tamil Nadu and Kerala, have been visiting the villages with lorries and weighing machines and buying paddy for between Rs. 1,500 and Rs. 1,650 a quintal, another KRRS functionary said.
The farmers in Maddur and Malavalli have already sold several thousands of tonnes of paddy to them. The small and marginal farmer cannot hire lorries to take his harvest to Mysuru or Bengaluru as the private procurers in Mandya too have been setting the rates low, said Nanjappa of Haniyambadi.
If they sell their produce for MSP, the farmers have to wait for weeks to get the money. Therefore, with mill owners are not showing the interest to procure paddy as it is, the wise move is to sell to the agents, as even if they pay less they pay on the spot, said Susheela of Malavalli.
Meanwhile, Ms. Sharath told The Hindu that the authorities were committed to “procuring the last bag of paddy from farmers”.