Govt purchases 95% of rice produced in Chhattisgarh, open market availability dips

Chhattisgarh has procured 95 per cent of the State’s rice production this year, aided by a ₹900/quintal bonus paid by the Vishnu Deo Sai Government above the minimum support price (MSP) of paddy resulting in rice millers and traders reportedly seeking grain from other States to meet the demand of the 20 per cent of the population not covered under the national food security law.

Chhattisgarh has emerged as a rice bowl of the country in the last decade and is now among top six producers of the grain.

According to latest official data, the Food Corporation of India (FCI), through State agencies, has purchased 74 lakh tonnes (lt) of rice, whereas the Agriculture Ministry data show production at 78.22 lt for 2023-24 crop year (July-June). Farmers in Chhattisgarh grow paddy only in kharif season and negligible crop sown during rabi which is not taken into consideration for estimate.

Source of surplus paddy?

However, on perusal of procurement data, it has been found that 144.92 lt of paddy arrived in the procurement period (between November 1, 2023 and February 4, 2024) whereas 110.45 lt got purchased. This meant about 34.5 lt of paddy were not purchased and it would have translated into about 23 lt of rice, whereas official estimates show only 4.22 lt of rice should have been available with farmers as well as in the market.

Trade sources said the rice procurement data is likely to be further revised to 83 lt as the State is said to have procured 145 lt of paddy which is equivalent of 97 lt in terms of rice.

“Either the government estimate of rice production in Chhattisgarh is way off the mark or the procurement system is faulty. Only a proper enquiry will tell the truth as to where is the surplus paddy coming from if not grown in the State,” said an official source.

Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Vishnu Deo Sai, on March 12, launched ‘Krishak Unnati Yojna’ to provide “input assistance” to farmers and released ₹13,289 crore to 24.72 lakh paddy growers who sold to the government at an MSP of ₹2,203/quintal (Grade A variety). Sai had said that farmers were paid the difference amount (what was promised against the MSP). BJP had promised to procure paddy at ₹3,100 per quintal from farmers during the Assembly polls last year.

Bonus above MSP

Since 2014, the Centre has imposed restrictions on States declaring bonuses above the MSP, particularly if the purchase exceeds their own requirements under the National Food Security Act (NFSA). Despite this, Chhattisgarh introduced a scheme that effectively provided a bonus without contravening the Centre’s rules.

“Farmers have sold their entire crop to the government and the current supply is coming from what traders had kept, which were purchased by them above MSP from farmers,” said Vijay Tayal, general secretary of Rice Millers’ Association of Chhattisgarh. He said rice millers are not getting paddy and as a result the rates in open market are also high. He said that from a farmer perspective there is no point in not selling paddy when rate is ₹3,100 and getting rice free of cost through ration shops.

Out of 2.55 crore population in Chhattisgarh, as many as 2 crore people (about 80 per cent) are covered under NFSA and entitled to receive free foodgrain at 5 kg per person per month. The Centre allocates 13.84 lt of rice per year (no wheat is allocated) to the State and the offtake is almost 100 per cent. In current fiscal, the allocation up to January was 11.53 lt whereas offtake was 11.56 lt.

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