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Sanjeev Kumar Patro

Bhubaneswar: Odisha has witnessed a boil in politics over the parboiled rice since the mid of January this year. Political posturing eyeing the western Odisha voters touched dizzy heights during the last fortnight and the ‘parboiled’ issue echoed even in Rajya Sabha on Friday.

The ruling BJD went to the town crying hoarse over a FCI letter to the State Food Supplies Department that talked about limiting the offtake of parboiled rice from the State for the central pool and complete stopping of the delivery of parboiled rice to the FCI in the Rabi season.

FCI LETTER – THE CAPITAL POINTS

As per the FCI letter produced by BJD in a press conference, the FCI (AGM) in his missive to VV Yadav, Secretary in the Odisha Food Supplies and Consumer Welfare department had said,

“Due to the estimated bumper procurement, there is possibility of glut of 185 lakh tonne parboiled rice stock across the country which may lead to choking its movement/disposal for years.”

Citing the context, the letter further said,

“In view of the above, it is required to give maximum delivery of raw rice to the extent of 50 per cent of the original estimates. It is also to intimate that FCI will not be in a position to accept any surplus parboiled rice during Rabi season 2020-21.”

THE BOIL IN POLITICS

Smelling the meat, the ruling BJD goes for a hunt. It charged the BJP as ‘anti-farmer’ and ‘anti-Odisha’. The State Cooperative Minister Raja Swain dashed off a letter to Union Food Minister Piyush Goal, where the State Minister said,

“Such an order will have disaster consequences on Odisha. Because, the State’s own consumption under PDS and other welfare schemes currently comes to around 24 lakh MT of rice. The estimated surplus that needs to be evacuated by FCI from the State in the current KMS would be in the range of 30 lakh MT.”

The matter was even raised by BJD RS MPs Amar Patnaik and Sasmit Patra in the Rajya Sabha during Question hour on Friday.

PARBOILED POLITICS

As per the data available with FCI here, according to the MOU between Odisha government and FCI, the State will deliver the surplus rice over and above Odisha’s annual requirement to the Central pool. And FCI will transport the surplus rice to deficit states.

The data shows western Odisha accounts for 79 per cent of the parboiled rice production in the State. And the districts also figure among the rice surplus districts in the State. The FCI transport the surplus parboiled rice from the surplus districts in western Odisha to the coastal region in the State and also beyond the State borders.

BJD sniffs political meat here. If the FCI letter’s content released by BJD is to be believed, then the farmers in the Western Odisha would bear the maximum brunt. And it’s Western Odisha where BJP riding the Modi wave trumped Naveen-led BJD at the Lok Sabha hustings.

A REALITY CHECK

The data with the FCI shows that Odisha’s annual requirement of rice for National Food Security Scheme, State Food Security Scheme, Mid-Day Meal, supplementary Nutrition Programme (SNP) etc. stood at 23 Lakh Metric Tonnes (LMT).

The rice procurement target in State this year has been fixed at around 48LMT – of which 37 LMT in Kharif and 11 LMT in Rabi.

“The raw and parboiled procurement proportion stand at around 7LMT and 41 LMT, respectively, for the full agriculture year of 2020-21,” informed a senior FCI official

He further added that the parboiled rice procurement this Kharif will be around 32 LMT, whereas it will be around 9 LMT in Rabi marketing season.

HOW MUCH RICE FCI WILL TAKE?

As per the MOU, in the agriculture marketing season of 2020-21, FCI will lift the surplus rice quantity from Odisha totalling to around 25 LMT, where the parboiled quantity will be over 21 LMT.

However, in his letter to Union Food Minister, Odisha Cooperative Minister Ranendra Pratap Swain put the figure at around 30 LMT parboiled rice. Even, the BJD RS MPs in their question to Union Food Minister in Rajya Sabha had mentioned the figure of 30 LMT parboiled rice.

UNION FOOD MINISTER’S REPLY  

Answering to the question, Minister of State for Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Danve Dadarao said,

“The Food Corporation of India (FCI) continues to accept parboiled rice in all surplus districts of Odisha during the Kharif season 2020-21 and necessary instructions were issued by FCI to their regional office in this regard.”

FCI data shows as on January 31, 2021, Odisha had delivered a total of 4.56 lakh MT rice to FCI for the central pool, of which parboiled rice quantity stood at 4.34 LMT. And under the DCP (De-centralised Procurement system), Odisha State Civil Supply Corporation (OSCSC) is stocking another around 2.52 LMT rice for the central pool, of which parboiled rice stood at over 1.72 LMT.

Moreover, as per Union Minister’s reply, as on February 5, 2021, the FCI had moved over 90 per cent of parboiled rice from Odisha to other states.

 

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