Bihar's marginal farmers struggling to sell paddy

Bihar's marginal farmers struggling to sell paddy

Bihar's marginal farmers struggling to sell paddy

Banka, Bihar: There is a paddy problem in Bihar. On the one hand, the administration has pushed the deadline for paddy procurement from January 31 to February 21 citing low rates of purchase across the state. On the other hand, Primary Agricultural Credit Society (PACS), the agency responsible for paddy procurement, doesn’t have enough budget to buy all the stock.

As a result, farmers in the Chanan block of Banka district are unhappy with the PACS model as majority of them are yet to sell their entire yield and are staring at huge losses. Experts blame this on the corruption perpetuated by local bigwigs.

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had introduced PACS in place of the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) Act in Bihar back in 2006. This replaced the traditional system of selling foodgrains in wholesale markets (mandis) with selling it to panchayat-level bodies and was seen as an important reform. So much so, that amid the ongoing farmers' protest, the central government has said that much like Bihar, other states would also profit from the abolition of APMC.

However, the ground reality suggests otherwise.

‘We have paddy, they don’t have budget’

Ashok Yadav, a farmer from Alkusia village in Dhanuvasar panchayat in Chanan block, has 40 quintals of paddy remaining to be sold. His wife Anita Devi claims that whenever they take up the issue with the local PACS president, he says there is a shortage of funds. She fears that if this continues, they’d have to sell the stock at Rs13-14 per kg, which is much lower than the MSP of Rs18.68 for general-grade paddy and Rs18.88 for A-grade paddy.

Even Premalata Devi and Shambu Prasad Yadav, farmers in the same village, haven’t been able to sell their 30 and 32 quintals of paddy to PACS yet.

Premlata Devi, 70, has 30 quintals of paddy unsold. After his son failed to sell the stock, he moved to Kolkata to make a living. Credit: Rahul Singh 

When 101Reporters approached Surendra Yadav, PACS president, Dhanuvasar panchayat, to understand the delay, he said that the administration has set a procurement target of Rs30 lakh, so it’s not possible to buy all the paddy from every farmer with this budget. 

According to Rajiv Ranjan, block cooperative officer of Chanan, the limited cash credit is hindering their purchase power. And so, while their target was to purchase 1.2 lakh quintals, only 46,000 quintals have been procured so far, he informed.

‘PACS hasn’t benefitted Bihar’s agriculture’

Dr Vidyarthi Vikas, assistant professor, AN Sinha Institute of Social Sciences (ANSISS), Patna, has observed that PACS has benefitted only the affluent farmers and village heads while marginal farmers such as Ashok, Premlata and Shambu continue to struggle.

Former ANSISS director Dr DM Diwakar has also noticed that the influential farmers are able to get the full price through PACS but marginal farmers have to bear the transportation cost, which is supposed to be borne by the state. Additionally, the system is marred by delayed payments, poorly maintained centres and under-procurement, he claims.

Even Suresh Modi, who has served as the former president of PACS in Dhanuvasar panchayat, accuses the administration of backdoor deals, which ultimately affects the procurement. He, therefore, advises the local farmers to not run after paddy farming. Instead, analyse the situation and cultivate accordingly, he advises. He is referring to the fact that only paddy comes under the MSP bracket in the Banka district.


The PACS centre at Dhanusavar panchayat in Banka's Chanan block. Credit: Rahul Singh

If the abolition of APMC was a good move, the agriculture sector in Bihar would have improved in the last 16 years, Diwakar argues while pointing out that the sector has only grown by 0.1%. He goes on to allege that getting elected to PACS as its president or a representative is more a display of power and status than a commitment towards the welfare of farmers.

Vikas’ ongoing study on Bihar agriculture has revealed similar results. The improper implementation of the MSP is causing losses to the tune of Rs7,000 crore every year to farmers, it’s found. The cumulative loss incurred since APMC was repealed is estimated to be around Rs1 lakh crore as only 2% farmers are able to sell their crops at the MSP. Despite the gaps in the system, Vikas points out that 94% of Indian farmers want the MSP regime to continue, according to a NITI Aayog report.

However, Banka district cooperative officer Arun Kumar refuted the allegations that the influential people are hijacking the procurement process while small farmers are being ignored. He added that they buy all the agricultural produce legitimately and the due amount is transferred to farmers digitally by the government.

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