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Sanjeev Kumar Patro

Bhubaneswar: Farmers unrest spilled over to Assembly today, when the opposition Congress raised a din in the house over lapses in procurement system and alleged distress sale of paddy in western Odisha.

Though farmers and political leaders in western Odisha have expressed apprehension over distress sale of paddy in the region over introduction of centralised token system, the data available with the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committees (APMC) shows that while there have been no reports of paddy being sold below MSP during the period November 1 - 18, commodities like maize are being sold at below Minimum Support Price (MSP) at three market centres in the State.

As per the  data available with Agricultural Produce marketing Committees (APMC), when the MSP of maize for 2019-20 has been fixed at Rs 1,760, the commodity was being sold at Rs 1200 on November 11 at Digapahandi.

Maize is being traded at below MSP in two other places also in Odisha. The sale price of the commodity was quoted at Rs 1500 - Rs 1600 in Umerkote and Nabarangpur market yards.  Significantly, Nabarangpur tops the State in corn cultivation. Nearly 70,000 hectares in the district are under maize cultivation.

Even as maize is not being procured by State, the trading of the commodity below MSP hits the farmers hard in Ganjam and Nabarangpur. Because, maize is a cost intensive crop. Farmers spend around Rs 20,000 per acre.

It needs mentioning here that the farmers in the southern districts switched over to corn cultivation following the travails in paddy procurement and consequent losses to the farmers there.

Meanwhile, paddy farmers in western Odisha have raised a banner of revolt over the centralised token system introduced this year for paddy sale. Earlier, the token system was operational at the district level, from this procurement season farmers have to apply for the advance token at the State level.

The grouse of farmers, especially in western Odisha, is the centralised advance token system is time consuming, and many are yet to receive the token when the procurement season has already commenced.

The fierce opposition to the centralised token system has come from the western Odisha, because, farmers here wish to sell their kharif crop at the earliest and invest the income in sowing of winter crops.

"Farmers in this command area (farm land benefitting from Hirakud project)  will not get sufficient time to prepare for the winter crop. Moreover, farmers here cannot sell paddy at a specified date. The dates will now be decided from Bhubaneswar without taking into account the farming calendar of western Odisha, " said farmer leader Ashok Pradhan.

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