Telangana, considered the rice bowl of southern India, is now grappling with the problem of plenty. The rice mills and godowns are bursting at the seams with nearly 70 lakh tonnes of paddy from last year’s rabi. When the kharif season ends by October-November this year, an additional 1.4 crore tonnes of paddy will arrive.
The problem is mainly from rabi paddy as it can only be converted into parboiled rice, but unlike in the past, it has no demand now. The Food Corporation of India (FCI), which was expected to procure the entire stock, says it cannot buy more than 25 lakh tonnes this year, leaving 45 lakh tonnes with the government. The Centre also said it would not procure more than 60 lakh tonnes from the estimated yield of 1.4 crore lakh tonnes from the kharif.
Besides, it will make no procurement of parboiled rice from the next rabi as it has adequate stocks to last five years. The glut is on account of the lack of guidance to farmers on the declining demand for parboiled rice. Though KCR had taken pro-farmer measures, he seems to have overlooked the FCI’s inability to procure the entire stock from rice mills. Even when it comes to raw rice this kharif, the FCI cannot go beyond the 60 lakh tonne quota. KCR wants farmers to go in for alternative crops like cotton, oilseeds or oil palm, but they are used to raising water-intensive paddy and may not be comfortable with the new crops, thereby not getting remunerative prices.
As for the Centre, it should not have dropped the bombshell so suddenly and could have gradually reduced the quota to give the state enough time to adjust to the new order. Any change should be for betterment and will be welcome if it is done in a phased manner. Now the state should handhold the farmers on alternative crops keeping in mind the future demand. KCR would now have to find an amicable solution as farmers are a crucial political constituency.