Even as the Odisha government has been going gaga over its much-touted token-based e-procurement of paddy, the shocker is marginal farmers are getting pushed out of the procurement system in the State. The proportion of marginal farmers availing the MSP in State has been shrunk by a massive 15 per cent in 2020-21.
As per the latest data available (up to Jan 1, 2021) with the Commission of Agriculture Cost and Prices (CACP), Odisha could procure only 7.3 per cent of the total paddy procured from farmland size of below 2.5 acres, when it was 16.4 per cent of the total in 2019-20.
Procurement, Politics And Farmers
Even as the State is drumming up the fact that Odisha has witnessed a record procurement in the Kharif Marketing Season (KMS) of 2020-21, the other side of the story is State has, indeed, witnessed one of the intense protests by farmer organisations and political parties last year.
The farmer organisations lambasted the State government over what they call the perils of the centralised token system introduced to sell paddy at government purchase centres since the year 2019. The issue had even rocked the State Assembly last year with the suicide drama by BJP MLA on the floor of the house hogging the national headlines then.
"This centralised token system is totally against the interest of farmers. Many are getting the token very late, for which they are unable to sell their produces," charged Akshay Kumar, farmer leader and head of Navanirman Krushak Sangha,
Is The Procurement For Rich Farmers?
The State’s marginal farmers own nearly 74.74 per cent of landholdings but could contribute a mere around 16.4 per cent of paddy procurement in 2019-20 and only 7.3 per cent till Jan1, 2021. In 2017-18, the procurement proportion for the marginal farmers was around 18 per cent.
A glance down the years pops up the fact that the paddy procurement from farmlands of below 2.5 acres had been 18 per cent in 2017-18.
The falling numbers tell a tale. It clearly reveals a consistent fall in procurement over the years from the marginal farmers in the State, which nails the fact of marginal farmers being pushed out of Odisha's procurement system.
Sample The Contrast
The following numbers give a twist to the tale. The medium and large farmers in State own around 1.13 per cent of farmland but have contributed 16.5 per cent of the total paddy procurement in the State till Jan 1, 2021, which is nearly 1.4 per cent up from the year 2019-20.
The CACP data over the years shows a dip in procurement from marginal farmers but a rise for the well-off farmers in the State, when the MSP is primarily aimed at giving price security to poor farmers (marginal farmers).
CACP Data Reveals More
The latest data of beneficiaries also show a sharp fall in the category of marginal farmers. When in the year 2019-20, marginal farmers constituted around 36.7 per cent of total farmers participated in procurement, the number dropped to 21 per cent till Jan 1, 2021, of the KMS 2020-21.
This is the only category of farmers that have recorded a drop in the State. and Odisha is the only major rice-producing State to record such a sharp decline in the country.
The Limiting Factors
While farmer leaders put the blame on Government's token system for procurement, the CACP traces the root cause as the lack of enough procurement centres in the State.
“Owing to no procurement centres in villages, lack of market access coupled with high transportation cost thereof when transported to nearby procurement centres together have dissuaded the small and marginal farmers from availing the MSP in Odisha,” the report observed.
Outlining the other limiting factors, the report detailed the reasons like subsistence farming, lack of awareness about MSP, FAQ as the other plausible reasons behind poor procurement from poor and marginal farmers in Odisha.
The Payment Factor
As per a recent NITI Aayog evaluation report on the MSP, the delay in payment to farmers dissuade the marginal farmers to go for distress sale in the open market. They do so as they get the price of the produces on the spot, even it is below MSP.
"Since small and marginal farmers need immediate cash to sustain family expenses, debt on farm loans, etc., they go in for open market selling even if it is below the MSP," the report observed.
Moreover, the NITI Aayog evaluation report reveals another blooper. It says nearly 40-45 per cent of farmers in Odisha are not aware of the MSP.
Shedding a poor light on agri extension services in Odisha, the report notes that nearly two-thirds of farmers in the State learn about the MSP from knowledgeable persons vis-a-vis a mere one-fifth from State Government officials.