Punjab, Haryana to begin wheat procurement with social distancing in mind

While Haryana has no limit on crop purchase during a single visit, Punjab has announced a cap of 50 quintal
Unlike Punjab, Haryana has placed no restriction on the amount of crop it will buy from farmers during a single visit. The reason: The state, which borders Delhi, does not want to encourage more than one visit by farmers in order to mitigate infection risk at procurement centres.

Haryana has increased the number of procurement centres for wheat by five times over the last season to 1,915, Sanjeev Kaushal, additional chief secretary, agriculture, farmer welfare and cooperation, told Business Standard. It has 163 such centres for mustard and eight for gram (channa). 
Punjab, on the other hand, plans to use cotton traders, yards of rice shellers,  and vacant panchayat land to increase collection centres to 5,000. It has declared that around 50 quintal will be bought from each farmer at a time, followed by a 72-hour rotation.

In both states, each wheat mandi will have 100 farmers coming daily to sell their produce in two shifts. Haryana and Punjab provide nearly 70 per cent foodgrain under the Right 
to Food.

While procurement of wheat in Punjab will start on Wednesday, it will begin on April 20 in Haryana. On whether private buyers would be encouraged to directly buy from farmers, Kaushal said: “While we welcome the (agro) industry, no buyer has the capacity to buy the amount we procure. Besides, we have the best market network in the country.”

The Haryana government is looking to procure 6.2-7 million tonne (MT) of wheat, 700,000-800,000 tonne of mustard, and 41,000 tonne of gram this season. Punjab, on the hand, is expected to procure 13.7 MT of wheat.
In the major procuring states like Punjab and Haryana, wheat is mainly procured by state government entities on behalf of the Food Corporation of India (FCI). They store the grain under their custody, for which carryover charges are paid to states. The FCI takes over stocks for dispatch to consuming states according to their requirement and a movement plan drawn out in consultation with the state government. In contrast, in states like Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, wheat procured by state agencies is immediately taken over by the FCI for storage/dispatch.

The issue of labour shortage is partly addressed because it is mostly government agencies which move the grain. In both Haryana and Punjab, and even in some parts Rajasthan, procurement from farmers is under through Arhatiyas under the APMC Act, for which commission of 2.5 per cent of the government-notified minimum selling price is paid in Punjab and Haryana and 2 per cent in Rajasthan.

Though Punjab had earlier planned to credit payments directly into the accounts of farmers, it decided not to go ahead with it this time because of the Covid-19 crisis. Farmers would be paid in cash. Haryana, however, will credit the money into farmer account through the real-time gross settlement system (RTGS) of banks, said Kaushal.

He said the state has mapped all its farmers through the Meri Fasal Mera Byora portal and, therefore, the procurement quantities were known. “The farmer will get an SMS followed by a phone call for reporting at the procurement centre, where hand sanitizers and other precautions relating to social distancing will be observed.” 

In Punjab, farmers will be told about specific days and given a token with an official hologram to ensure social distancing.

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