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Sanjeev Kumar Patro

Bhubaneswar: When the State government has set the paddy procurement target at 60 Lakh MT for 2019-20 Kharif Marketing Season (KMS), the revelation is State agencies are still saddling with a whopping around 4.19 lakh MT (metric tonnes) un-milled paddy of the total procured in 2018-19 season.

The disconcerting fact here is as per the normal practice the entire procured quantity should have been sent for custom milling to millers within 3-months of procurement. The procurement season for the State has ended on June 30.

But of the total procurement of around 64.4 lakh MT paddy in 2018-19, a high of around 6 per cent un-milled paddy is still lying with the State agencies, which raises an eyebrow over the food-grain management of the State.

Though officials of the Food and Civil Supplies Department (F&CS) refused to speak on the issue, experts attribute State sitting over un-milled paddy to two serious lapses.

As per experts, the first could be due to failure of the State to set up rice mills in tandem with increased procurement, and hence the stock of un-milled paddy.

The second cause behind the high quantity of un-milled paddy could be refusal by the millers to lift the paddy for custom milling.

When did millers do so? Millers refuse to lift the procured paddy when the quantity of procured paddy becomes sub-standard in quality.

In either of the cases, the mismanagement of foodgrain management gets starkly revealed.

But if the second reason is the prime factor, then the lapse not only looks grave but also raises the stink of fraud as the procurement norms have very categorically asked the procurement agencies to accept paddy that are in conformity to the mentioned standards.  Sources in the F&CS department revealed that most of the un-milled paddy belongs to western and southern districts of the State.

The lurking fear now is since long-term paddy stocking is challenging and damaging, the State could see wastage of over 2.85 lakh MT of rice equivalent to the un-milled paddy stocks.

Moreover, farmer organisations fear that the paddy baggage could hamper the new procurement that will start from November as lack of space may play spoilsport in hassle free lifting of new paddy.

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