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State spends Rs 9K cr in current fiscal to get paddy from farmers against Centre's 'poor procurement'

State spends Rs 9K cr in current fiscal to get paddy from farmers against Centres poor procurement
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Kolkata: In a major relief to the farmers, the Mamata Banerjee government has spent a whopping Rs 9,000 crore in the current fiscal for procurement of paddy from farmers against the Minimum Support Price (MSP) at a time when the Centre has been accused of 'depriving' Bengal by procuring only 76,000 MT paddy during 2019-20 Kharif Marketing Season (KMS).

Bengal was deprived despite the fact that it continues to be the country's highest paddy producing state with 243 lakh tonnes being produced during 2018-19 as per the Agricultural Statistics Division of the Centre's Directorate of Economics and Statistics.

The state government, at present, procures paddy at Rs 1,868 per quintal and also provides an additional sum of Rs 20 per quintal if the same is sold at its procurement centres. The state has already spent Rs 9,000 crore for procurement of paddy till date since April 2020.

In the KMS 2020-21 (from November to September every year), the state government sets a target of procuring a total of 54 lakh MT paddy. Of this, 30 lakh MT has already been procured, a state government officer said.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has also expressed her resentment over such step-motherly attitude of the Centre towards Bengal as farmers are getting deprived. When contacted, Pradip Majumdar, the Chief Minister's Advisor on Agriculture, said: "Small and marginal farmers have remained deprived of their rights. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee stood beside them and she allocated Rs 8,800 crore to support MSPs in the state. Otherwise, our farmers would have been terribly affected as the Central government hates to touch their produce."

He further maintained: "KMS 2019-20 is very relevant as 43 per cent of the total's country's paddy production was procured by the Centre through Food Corporation of India (FCI) because of the pandemic. Then, they should have bought at least 104 lakh MT from Bengal itself as 243 lakh MT paddy was available here for procurement. Additional expenditure was made out of the Centre's exchequer for transportation cost of the paddy procured from seven sister states in the North East and Sikkim. But no such effort has been done for Bengal to keep its farmers deprived."

There was procurement of 49 lakh MT paddy in 2019-20 KMS by the state government compared to that of only 76,000 tonnes by the FCI, sources said. It comes at a time when the Centre had announced MSP of Rs 1,815 per quintal for paddy in KMS 2019-20 with 'a lot of fanfare to show its concern' about increasing farmers' income, an official said.

Only 76,000 MT were procured despite repeated requests made by the state government to the FCI to procure at least 6 lakh MT paddy as per the Centre's commitments during KMS 2019-20. "Poor procurement" from Bengal had prompted the Chief Minister to handover a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on May 12 in 2015 in Kolkata, urging the Centre to procure at least 20 lakh MT paddy at the then MSP of Rs 816 per quintal. Subsequently, the FCI had sent a message to ensure 10 lakh MT from Bengal during the KMS 2015-16. Despite repeated follow-ups by the state government and offering all support and facilities for procurement, less than 40,000 MT paddy was procured in 2015-16 from Bengal, where 97 per cent are marginal and small farmers.

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