Bhubaneswar, Sep 26:
The Naveen Patnaik government has come up with a Dussehra gift for rice millers. According to the draft of a new paddy procurement policy that sources said would come into effect from October 1, the state government would slash the mandatory levy purchase of 75 % rice from millers to 10% and allow them to sell the rest in the open market. Informed sources say this is a novel way devised by the state government to save itself from the ridicule of failing to procure paddy from the farmers.
The new policy is expected to be notified after receiving the chief minister’s nod within a day or two.
The policy is being sought to be justified on the ground that the state simply does not have the storage space to keep the huge amount of paddy it is duty bound to procure under the current policy.
The Food Supplies department, sources told OST, had set a combined procurement target of 35 lakh tonnes of rice for both kharif and rabi seasons in the year 2012-13, but later hiked it to 40 lakh tonnes in view of the bumper paddy crop in 14 districts. But the lack of storage space made a mockery of the revised procurement target as farmers had to take back their paddy from the doorsteps of the millers due to unavailability of space. The result; as against a target of 40 lakh tonnes, only 36.72 lakh tonnes have been procured till now.
The state government, which has always been at the receiving end of criticism from both the opposition and ruling alike for procurement blues during the paddy procurement season, hopes to shield it against such criticism. It is also expects to be spared the bother of finding storage space for the huge amount of paddy procured once the new policy comes into effect.
This year too is expected to be a bumper harvest as it was last year. The government has planned to set a rice procurement target of 30 lakh tonnes for the kharif season this year. During procurement season every year, the state government used to have a tussle with the FCI for storing levy rice in the absence of sufficient storage facilities of its own. This also affected paddy procurement. In order to do away with the problem, the state government intends to give a free hand to millers under the new policy. But the new draft has nothing on how it’s going to affect the market.
Since Odisha is a rice surplus state, the new policy will in no way affect people, said an official of the Food supplies department. However, analysts are of the opinion that the move will push up the price of rice in the markets while offering a bonanza to millers.