Saswat Singhdeo

Bhubaneswar: Farmers in Odisha are opting to sell their paddy in neighbouring states as delay in opening of mandis and alleged harassment by rice millers have made the paddy procurement process cumbersome.

According to sources, as mandis did not open, farmers in Bahalda of Mayurbhanj and Jaleswar, Bhogarai and Basta of Balasore districts are selling their paddy in neighbouring West Bengal and at a price of Rs 1200 per quintal.

"In the absence of Mandis, we are forced to sell our paddy to traders of Jharkhand and West Bengal at a very low rate," Belpashi resident Dhananjay Giri said.

Recently, Chhattisgarh government increased the rate of paddy to Rs 2500 per quintal while in West Bengal it is Rs 1700 per quintal which is why farmers mostly residing in the bordering areas are selling their paddy to these states through agents, informed sources.

"There are a lot of other bills that we have to pay and we also have to meet our daily expenses. That's why we are selling the paddy to private traders at Rs 1250 per quintal," Chamargaon resident Gajendra Nath Jena said.

"There is no procurement in Odisha. Our farmers are selling paddy for as low as Rs 700 to Rs 800 per quintal near the border. BJD and BJP are exploiting the farmers of Odisha. If no steps are taken, Congress will be forced to stage protest," Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee president, Niranjan Patnaik said.

On the other hand, Odisha BJP president Basant Panda said "The State government has sold itself to the millers. They are exploiting the farmers through goons and agents forcing them to sell their paddy at low rates."

Responding to these allegations, Odisha Food Supplies Minister Surjya Narayan Patro said “Even if we want to give bonus we are not being able to because of guidelines. Congress never wanted welfare of farmers. Nobody else is worried for farmers as much as we do.”