The office of the district controller of food and supplies department in South Dinajpur today started paddy procurement from farmers.

Eight procurement centres are functioning all over the district to collect paddy from the farmers, while they have been asked to follow all Covid19 guidelines, officials said, adding that four additional procurement centres may be opened to maintain less gathering of people.

Officials also said that they have stressed on online payments for the procurement process so as to avoid crowding.

South Dinajpur is one of the biggest paddy producing districts in north Bengal, while it produces more than the total requirement, source have said. To put a stop to distress sale by farmers, the state as well as the central government has decided to purchase paddy directly from the farmers from their nearest paddy procurement centres.

The food control department of the state government has fixed a target of 95,000 metric tons of paddy for the district this year, which is 5,000 metric tons less than the previous year. One farmer can sell 10 quintals of paddy at the government procurement centres that have been opened in every block of the district.

“This year, an additional four centres are being prepared in blocks like Balurghat, Gangarampur, Tapan and Kumarganj, to avoid crowding,” an official source at the food department said.

“Initially, 30 farmers can sell their paddy at a centre. The number may increase during the peak time of the sale,” the source added.

According to the source, the Food Corporation of India (FCI) has not signed any contract with the state government for rice procurement this year. The rice is used in different central schemes like mid-day meal, and at the ICDS. In South Dinajpur district, the requirement of rice for ration shops is only 40,000 metric tons, and officials say that procurement of only 62,000 metric tons is enough for the same. “At every procurement centre, there will be a single queue and the farmers need not register their names this year. As per previous year records, officials at the centres will inform the farmers over the phone and send messages 24 hours before the procurement. Not only that, the list of farmers will be displayed at every centre a day before the actual procurement,” a source said.

“This year, the payment system has also been changed. The farmers will be paid through the online process within 48 hours of the sale. This process will minimise mass gatherings,” said the food controller of South Dinajpur, Jayanta Kumar Roy.