Centre to relax norms for paddy procurement: Punjab minister

Chandigarh, Oct 29 (IANS) With farmers in Punjab facing problems in procurement by government agencies of their paddy, the central government has indicated that specifications for procurement would be relaxed soon, a state minister said Tuesday.

Food and Civil Supplies Minister Adaish Partap Singh Kairon, who met union Food, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution Minister K.V. Thomas in New Delhi Tuesday, said the ministry would announce relaxation in prescribed parameters of paddy procurement within the next two days, an official release said here.

Kairon had met Thomas to seek his personal intervention to relax specifications for paddy procurement so that farmers did not suffer.

Farmers in some districts of Punjab are complaining that their paddy stocks were not being purchased by government agencies due to strict parameters set by the central government for the moisture content and colour of the produce.

The central ministry had last week sent inspection teams to grain markets across Punjab to look into the problem of paddy not being procured.

The teams also assessed the damage caused to paddy in terms of discoloration and moisture content due to inclement weather as the state was lashed by unseasonal and unprecedented rains and hailstorm in September.

Kairon told Thomas that it was incumbent on the part of the central government to bail out the state's farmer in this crisis, instead of penalizing them for something that was not their fault and happened "because of unusual climatic conditions that damaged food grains which was beyond anyone's control".

He said Thomas also assured him that the Food Corporation of India (FCI) would be directed to procure its quota of 10 percent paddy from the total arrival. The FCI has procured less than five percent of its quota this year.

Over 80 lakh tonnes of paddy has been procured in Punjab so far. The procurement started Oct 1.

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