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Telangana government says no to paddy; it’s that or nothing, say farmers

The State government too has no capacity to store paddy for the next two to three years.

Published: 29th October 2021 07:36 AM  |   Last Updated: 29th October 2021 07:36 AM   |  A+A-

The Gross Value of Output of paddy in 2014-15 was Rs 9,528 crore, and it has increased to Rs 47,440 crore in 2020-21.

The Gross Value of Output of paddy in 2014-15 was Rs 9,528 crore, and it has increased to Rs 47,440 crore in 2020-21.

Express News Service

HYDERABAD: As farmers prepare for the Rabi season, a possible agriculture crisis is looming large over the State. After Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, during an official meeting on September 12, opined that cultivating paddy was no better than the farmers hanging themselves, the ryots launched an agitation, which has now snowballed into a political controversy.

“Vari (paddy) veyadamante vuri vesukovadame,” the CM had said at the meeting. The Food Corporation of India’s (FCI) decision to procure only 59 lakh tonnes of Kharif rice had prompted him to make such a drastic statement. Now, the State government has issued a stern warning to farmers against growing paddy. Officials, in fact, have threatened seed dealers that their licences would be cancelled if they sell paddy seeds to farmers. 

However, a majority of farmers say that they do not want to cultivate alternative crops as there is plenty of water available from the massive irrigation projects constructed by the government. They don’t want to cultivate cotton or sesame instead because these crops are far more labour-intensive than paddy and have no mechanisation available. 

“Paddy requires less labour. I have raised sesame, which involves a lot of work. Now, the labour charges for a woman worker are Rs 450. After NREGS, no youngster is coming forward to work on labour-intensive crops,” a farmer from Sangareddy said.In contrast, paddy is known as “Somari Panta” (idle crop), which requires less work, another farmer explained.

“Why did he (the CM) construct Kaleshwaram project and give water to us? Cotton cannot be raised during the Rabi season. Only paddy or fodder crop can be raised. Like the CM had said, we will have to hang ourselves now,” said a farmer in a video, which has gone viral on social media. 

The agriculture and irrigation sectors, which had helped the TRS government win the hearts of farmers over the last four years, have now put the ruling party in a spot. Experts, meanwhile, said that the possible crisis was neither sudden, not surprising. The procurement policy of the Central government, coupled with lack of proper planning by the State, is pushing farmers into a crisis. Sparking a political debate, the TRS is blaming the BJP-led Centre, while the Opposition is pointing fingers at the State. 

Policy instability

The Gross Value of Output of paddy in 2014-15 was Rs 9,528 crore, and it has increased to Rs 47,440 crore in 2020-21. The State government had come up with a ‘regulated cropping system, directing farmers about what to raise and what not to raise. However, the farmers did not fall in line. 

The government soon went back on the system and permitted farmers to raise crops as per the demands of the market. As is custom, farmers opted for paddy cultivation. But with no market for rice in other states and countries, the State yet again asked farmers not to grow the crop.

The frequent changes in the stance of the government only added fuel to fire, according to farmers’ organisations. The annual action plans prepared by the Agriculture Department are mere rituals, they said. Even as the cultivable area has increased gradually, the action plans have not addressed them.

The agriculture action plan of 2021-22 is confined to rainfall data and does not talk about the consequences of glut of paddy in the market, they added. “Paddy production increased by 29.9% from the year 2019-20 to 2020-21. This has helped make the State a national leader in paddy production,” the action plan had boasted, while keeping mum about the marketing of the same.

Money spent on purchase

This Kharif season, paddy production is expected to be 1.35 crore tonnes. But the FCI has decided to procure only 59 lakh tonnes. The domestic requirement of rice is around 20 lakh tonnes, while around 20 lakh to 30 lakh tonnes of rice will remain with the farmers, according to an estimate. It must either be purchased by the State government or the FCI. Otherwise, the farmers will suffer financially and the ruling party will have to face the consequences. The procurement of the previous year’s Rabi paddy had placed a burden of Rs 2,000 crore on the State government’s exchequer, sources said. 

Therefore, the State cannot spend too much on paddy purchasing. “Paddy was cultivated in 63 lakh acres in Telangana this year, during the Kharif season. However, the Centre says the cropped area is not visible in satellite images. We have requested the Centre to take up ground-level inspections and assess the cropped area of paddy. But the Centre has been evading the matter for the last three months and not conducting field visits,” Agriculture Minister Singireddy Niranjan Reddy alleged. He said that if the Centre procured the whole of paddy, then there would be no problem.

To buy or not to

The State government is faced with another concern. As a welfare measure, it usually purchases paddy from farmers and later hands it over to millers, from whom the FCI procures rice. No other State in the country purchases paddy directly from farmers. At a time when ryots are facing problems, the State government cannot back out of its commitment.

“We will not purchase a single grain of paddy in the ensuing Rabi season,” Energy Minister G Jagadish Reddy declared, indicating the State government’s mood. Meanwhile, farmers suggested that the government procure other crops too so that they could move away from paddy. Huge quantities of paddy remain with farmers, and they are unable to store it due to lack of storage capacity in their homes.

The State government too has no capacity to store paddy for the next two to three years. If the farmers are unable to sell their paddy, they would not get the required investment for their next crop. The FCI also cannot change its policy, as the Centre has ample food grain stocks, which is sufficient for the next five years, the Union government had recently told Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao. 

“During the formation of the State, the storage capacity of godowns was just four lakh tonnes. Now, it has increased to 25 lakh tonnes. The marketing department is planning to increase the storage capacity to 40 lakh tonnes in the future,” official sources explained. But this will not come in handy in the ensuing Rabi season.

Poor exports

When the paddy production had increased considerably, the government decided to export the same to other countries. As a result, the government wanted the farmers to raise the Telangana Sona variety (having low glycemic index) and not the coarse varieties of paddy. The State was hoping to export Telangana Sona, but it did not succeed in its efforts, as the export policy is controlled by the Centre. The State does not have proper plant and machinery to mill the paddy on par with international standards. “The exporters are not preferring Telangana Sona rice,” the millers said. The State also lacked quality testing labs for exports. “Rice exports from Telangana has a natural disadvantage of connectivity as compared to a few other States of the country,” according to a study prepared by The Federation of Telangana Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FTCCI) for the State government. It is to be noted that State’s share in total rice exports of non-basmati remained at less than 0.5% over the last five years in spite of production increasing by 29.6 lakh tonnes in 2015-16 and to 1.3 crore tonnes in 2019-20, recording more than four times growth in overall production

Government will purchase Rabi Paddy: Palla

Speaking to reporters in Hanamkonda on Thursday, Rythu Bandhu Samithi State president Palla Rajeshwar Reddy said that the government would purchase paddy grown in the Rabi season too. He said that the farmers could raise paddy under canals, projects like Kaleshwaram, NSP and others as well as in low-lying areas, where water is available. “Farmers can raise paddy in both Kharif and Rabi seasons,” he said. He said that the government was only suggesting that they opt for oil seeds and pulses

‘Telangana must buy other crops too’

“This is a challenge that can be turned into an opportunity. The State government should not say that it will not buy paddy. Instead, it should tell farmers which crop it is going to buy. The government should also procure pulses and oil seeds and they should be included in the Public Distribution System (PDS). The State can reduce the quantity of PDS rice to four kg and include pluses and oils too. If the government announced Rs 100 or Rs 500 incentive for crops like sesame, then farmers will quit paddy cultivation. The government should also motivate farmers to raise other crops like sugarcane,” suggested Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) State vice-president B Sridhar Reddy



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