Chandigarh: Union Food and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar on Monday expressed serious concern over dwindling arrival of wheat in Punjab and Haryana grain markets, saying a new trend was being witnessed wherein traders were procuring directly from farmers to avoid state levies on the crop.
“We are witnessing a new tendency in contrast to what has been routine earlier with regard to wheat arrivals. Some traders are paying Rs5-10 higher than the MSP to farmers for lifting their crop in a bid to avoid paying 12.5% taxes to the state government,” Pawar told reporters here.
He said there was an urgent need to pay attention to this trend for ensuring sufficient crop arrival.
In normal practice, state government agencies along with Food Corporation of India and private traders procure wheat from state-run grain markets.
Pawar said the taxes imposed by the state government on procurement made by private traders is among other things utilised on improving rural infrastructure.
“When these taxes are avoided, it impacts these works,” he pointed out.
Pawar was addressing a press conference here after holding a meeting with Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda to take stock of impact caused by unseasonal rains on standing wheat in the two leading agrarian states.
According to data provided by FCI, the arrival of wheat in both Punjab and Haryana during 2007-08 has gone down by 26.31 lakh tons and 27.50 lakh tons respectively compared to arrival in 2001-02.
The less arrival of wheat caused net loss of Rs227 crore to Punjab government and Rs245 crore to Haryana government in 2007-08 alone.
Pawar informed the procurement target of wheat in Rabi marketing season had been set at 140-150 lakh tons for the country as a whole while from Punjab and Haryana, the target was 80 lakh tons and 40 lakh tons, respectively.
Replying to a demand raised by Haryana Government seeking lifting of ban on export of non-basmati rice, Pawar said that he will take up the matter at the cabinet level.
Pawar further said that since non-basmati hybrid rice variety --Pusa-1121--has great export potential and is not generally consumed by common people, Haryana’s suggestion on re-allowing its export will be kept in mind.
On the issue of water-logging problem particularly in areas of Fazilka and Muktsar, two major cotton belts of Punjab, Pawar said he would take up the matter with Prime Minister and seek a joint meeting of Union Water Resources Minister, Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan Chief Ministers, while describing it as serious issue. Punjab had sought sheet-lining of Rajasthan and Sirhind canals at a cost of Rs400 crore in order to combat the menace of water-logging in the Malwa region, which had engulfed approximately 325 villages affecting an area of 3 lakh acres of land.
In his meeting with Pawar, Badal demanded a bonus of Rs400 per quintal on wheat.
He demanded immediate announcement of bonus to encourage farmers to bring in their crop to mandis so that the states could meet procurement target.
Both Badal and Hooda sought that the Central Government should link Minimum Support Price (MSP) with price index.