Centre owes Kerala Rs 637cr as price of paddy procured: Minister G R Anil

The minister also blamed some farmers’ collectives for the delay in submitting details of paddy supplied. All the issues will be avoided next season, he said.  

Published: 02nd September 2023 07:26 AM  |   Last Updated: 02nd September 2023 07:26 AM   |  A+A-

Paddy Crop

Image used for representational purpose only. (File photo)

By Express News Service

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: In a new twist to the raging controversy over non-payment of paddy procurement price to farmers, Food and Civil Supplies Minister G R Anil has said the Union government owed Kerala Rs 637.6 crore as its share of procurement price from previous years.

“The issue was raised with the Centre, but to no avail,” he told a press conference in Thiruvananthapuram on Friday. The matter will be raised again with the Union food secretary, who will be in Kerala on September 6, he said.

The minister also blamed some farmers’ collectives for the delay in submitting details of paddy supplied. All the issues will be avoided next season, he said.  

Anil said 7,31,184 tonnes of paddy were procured from 2,50,373 farmers in 2022-23. So far, Rs 1,854 crore was distributed to 2,30,000 farmers. The payment was completed for all procurements below Rs 50,000. The pending dues, Rs 216 crore, will be remitted to the farmers’ bank accounts soon. The controversy over the delay in payment to farmers was triggered by actor Jayasurya at a function in Kochi attended by Industries Minister P Rajeeve and Agriculture Minister P Prasad.

Though Rajeeve had replied to the actor at the venue itself and Prasad the next day, the controversy lingered on.  “The government had to rely on banks for the payment as the central share was delayed. We had entered into agreements with a consortium of selected banks for the payment. But the banks also delayed payment,” Anil said.

Anil said the initial agreement was to distribute Rs 700 crore through State Bank of India (SBI), Canara Bank and Federal Bank. A second agreement was signed to distribute Rs 280 crore as well. However, the banks failed to remit the amounts to farmers’ accounts before Onam. SBI defaulted on payment of Rs 12 crore, Canara Bank Rs 7 crore and Federal Bank Rs 6 crore.

Until August 30, as per an agreement signed on August 24, the SBI distributed Rs 3.04 crore to 465 farmers. Canara Bank distributed Rs 38.32 crore to 4,000 farmers on August 24. The minister said farmers should not worry about the payment of procurement price by way of bank loans. The Paddy Receipt Sheet (PRS) loan will not create any liability to farmers. The government will bear the full interest, he added.

Direct benefit transfer of Centre’s share

The National Farmers Protection Committee (NFPC), attributes the long delay in clearing famers’ dues to the state government’s mismanagement. “The Supplyco started procurement in 2005 and we used to get money within two months till 2021. The issue started with Supplyco facing a financial crisis due to the free food kit distribution. The organisation diverted funds to foot the bills of suppliers,” said its general secretary Pandiyode Prabhakaran. The organisation has now approached the Centre demanding direct benefit transfer of its central share to farmers’ accounts.

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