The state will have 7 lakh metric tonnes of excess rice to feed other states like Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Jharkhand after the final estimation of the current season’s harvest. Still, Bengal is reimbursed at the lowest Mandi rate of Rs 2.73 per quintal during procurement, said state food and supply minister Jyotipriyo Mullick after inaugurating a new Food Bhavan here today.
He said: “Bengal is the highest paddy producer in the country but when it comes to reimbursement, we are the worst sufferer. The Centre allows Rs 27 per quintal to Punjab, Rs 25 to Haryana, Orissa but we are offered less than one-third of the Mandi charges.” He added: “The Food Corporation of India is yet to reimburse us an amount of Rs 1,000 crore for their procurement for ICDS and Mid Day Meal supply, but they have requested fresh consignments for low-yielding states like Tamil Nadu, Jharkhand and Kerala. We are ready to dispatch the same as we have excess rice in hand.”
In the first and second quarters of 2017-18, the state provided 11,270.483 MT and another 46,409 MT in the third quarter to FCI for PDS and ICDS. The procurements were made from East and West Midnapore, Birbhum, Nadia, Malda, North and South Dinajpur, Murshidabad, Cooch Behar and Alipurduar districts. In the fourth quarter, the minister said: “The FCI’s officials informed me that they could hardly procure 2038 MT against the targeted procurement of 70,000 MT from East Midnapore and Burdwan (East).”
The FCI has engaged a private agency for the procurement, which has shown a snail’s progress. The minister alleged: “Some FCI officials are asking for cash as bribe from the millers and one such incident occurred in Burdwan last week. We have instructed to lodge FIR against the officials.”
The state had enrolled 8 lakh farmers during last year’s procurement, which is planned to be enhanced to 12 lakh this year. The state is targeting to achieve 52 lakh MT procurement by 31 October, 2018. In Burdwan (East), described as Bengal’s rice bowl, the procurement target is fixed at 3.90 lakh MT.
Of this, Mr Mallik said: “Already 1.20 lakh MT has been procured by 30 Central Purchase Centres operating in 23 blocks here and we are introducing nine Direct Purchase Centres.” The state however has been facing difficulty due to lack of adequate warehousing capacity. Mr Mullick said the CM has allocated Rs 800 crore for the purpose in this year’s budget.