SONEPUR/BOUDH:Cotton crop grown in Sonepur and Boudh districts would be ready for harvest in next two months. But the farmers are a worried lot. In absence of an organised market for sale of their produce, they are left at the mercy of a spinning mill owner in Sonepur and middlemen.
Since Kolkata-based mill owner procures cotton at less than market price, the farmers have to travel to a cotton market in the neighbouring Balangir.This year, cotton has been grown over 3,000 hectares (ha) of land in Birmaharajpur, Ulunda and Tarbha blocks and some pockets of Sonepur. But, the district administration has made no effort to rope in agencies for procurement or open mandis.
While a decision was taken to open mandis two years back, there has been no headway in this direction. This has exposed the growers to middlemen who are on the prowl to purchase cotton at low price.
Although in a meeting of the District Level Monitoring Committee for Cotton presided by Sonepur Collector Dasarathi Satpathy held in October last year, it was decided that a cotton mandi would function under Regulated Market Committee (RMC) at Birmaharajpur, work on the structure and its godown is far from complete. Only after its completion, RMC can invite the Cotton Corporation of India (CCI) to open procurement centre at the mandi.
Earlier, due to the intervention of former Sonepur Collector Bhawani Shankar Panda, the spinning mill was procuring cotton at market rate and the purchase amount was directly deposited in the account of farmers. The arrangement was in place for three years till Panda retired in March this year. The farmers alleged that now the spinning mill owner is dictating terms as far as procurement is concerned and they are forced to travel all the way to Balangir to sell cotton at a mandi there. They said if the old system is put back in place, the procurement problem would be resolved.
The situation is no way different in Boudh where the farmers also sell their produce either at the Sonepur spinning mill or mandis in Balangir and Phulbani.The officials, however, said steps are being taken to streamline the procurement system. While Deputy Director of Agriculture, Sonepur, PK Samantray said RMC was working on developing a mandi at Birmaharajpur, secretary of the RMC Banamali Nayak said a godown is being constructed at Badkhamar village. Nayak said once the construction is complete, RMC would move the CCI for procurement of cotton.