Explaining the dip in procurement, the official said that since direct marketing was allowed and big purchasers were available, farmers had a better choice to sell their produce during the lockdown.
Uttar Pradesh, the country’s largest wheat producing state, has fallen back in its wheat purchase target this year. The state, which has produced 360 lakh metric tonne of wheat, has so far been able to purchase barely 50% of its target in the ongoing rabi marketing season (2020-21).
According to a senior official of the food department, as on June 9, the state has purchased 28.3 lakh metric tonne of the grain from 5,35,670 farmers, who have been paid more than `4,408 crore as minimum support price (MSP) at the rate of `1,925 per quintal. This is against the government’s target of purchasing 55 lakh metric tonne by the end of the season.
“Due to the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the lockdown that followed, the procurement of wheat from the state mandis began on April 15 instead of April 1. Because of that, the state government has now extended the purchase deadline to June 30, instead of June 15,” he said.
However, looking at the sluggish pace of procurement, it looks difficult that the state would reach the target. Explaining the dip in procurement, the official said that since direct marketing was allowed and big purchasers were available, farmers had a better choice to sell their produce during the lockdown.
“This year the government had set up 5,953 purchase centres in the state. But since the market price offered to the farmers was higher that the MSP at most places, they thought it better to sell their produce to private producers than sell at the mandis,” he said, adding that the main lookout of the government is that the farmers should not be forced into distress selling. “The entire idea behind fixing an MSP is that the farmers should get that base price and no one should fleece him. But if they are getting better prices in the market by direct purchasers, it’s good,” he stated, adding that it gives the farmers better choice.