Along the busy National Highway No.1 (NH-1) there is one town that is the symbol of the country’s self-sufficiency in food grain. The Khanna grain market, said to be the largest grain market in Asia, gets millions of tonnes of produce from Punjab’s agricultural fields.
The months of April-May and October-November are the busiest ones for the grain market with tens of thousands of quintals of wheat and paddy arriving here.
Scores of farmers can be seen bringing their produce to the grain market and striking deals with procurement agencies or private buyers. ‘Arhtiyas’ or commission agents are present in good numbers across the grain market.
"The Khanna grain market is the biggest one of its kind. Farmers of the area bring their produce here to sell. Being on the GT (Grand Trunk) Road (NH-1) gives it an advantage," Harbans Singh Rosha, president of the Arhtiyas Association, told IANS.
Spread over 51 acres, the grain market has concrete platforms and sheds where the sale and purchase of food grain take place.
With procurement of wheat starting across Punjab on April 10, the Khanna grain market is also readying itself for a busy two-month period. Despite the recent unseasonal rainfall, commission agents and government procurement officials are hopeful that the wheat arrival will not see much drop.
"Though the rain, strong winds and hailstorms in recent weeks have damaged crops at some places, we do not expect a big shortfall in wheat arrival," Harbans Singh added.
While paddy and wheat record the maximum arrival here annually, other crops that are brought here include sunflower, barley, maize, sarson (mustard), onions and potato.
"The grain market has been operating here since 1967. In the last few years, the arrival of food grains has not been as high as in earlier years as the state government has opened other procurement centres to facilitate farmers," Parveen Kaushal, a senior functionary of the market committee, told IANS.
"This time, the Punjab government has designated 1,814 procurement centres across Punjab and more could be established depending upon the requirement," Punjab Mandi Board chairman Ajmer Singh Lakhowal said.
Farmers say that the state government could step in to provide more facilities at the grain market.
"During peak season, the whole area remains very dusty due to the arrival of grains on tractor-trolleys and trucks. Sometimes, farmers are not able to sell their produce on the same day and have to stay overnight. Most of them end up sleeping in the open," farmer Kirpal Singh of Fatehgarh Sahib told IANS.
Market officials admit that in case the grain is not completely dry and have higher moisture content than the prescribed limit, the produce can take some days to sell.
Located about 45 km from the industrial hub of Ludhiana, Khanna, which came into existence nearly 500 years back during the Mughal period, continues to be famous for its grain market.