Only 34% of Paddy Lifted as Millers Strike Continues Against FCI Guidelines
The ongoing strike by rice millers in Punjab against the Food Corporation of India's (FCI) guidelines has created a significant backlog in the state's mandis, with only 34% of the paddy being lifted as of October 15. The millers have been on an indefinite strike since October 10, protesting against the FCI's directive that mandates the acceptance of only fortified rice kernels (FRK) for public distribution.
Rice fortification involves adding a micronutrient powder, which adheres to the grains, forming a vitamin and mineral coating. These fortified rice kernels, when blended with custom-milled rice (CMR) in specific proportions, are supplied for public distribution, as part of the government's initiative to combat malnutrition and nutrient deficiencies.
As the paddy arrival gains momentum in the state, the slow lifting due to the ongoing millers' strike in several districts is raising concerns among procurement authorities. The situation is pushing the mandis towards a glut-like situation, with 66% of the paddy still lying in mandis across Punjab.
According to data from the Punjab Mandi Board, of the 23.68 lakh tonnes of paddy that reached the purchase centers till October 15, only 7.83 lakh tonnes, or 34%, have been lifted to date. Officials from the food and civil supplies department have expressed worry over the situation and emphasized the need for a prompt resolution.
Paddy harvesting has already begun in most parts of the state, and it is expected to reach its peak in a week's time. If the rice millers continue their protest, mandis could run out of storage space. To address this concern, officials are making efforts to create temporary storage facilities for the increasing quantity of paddy arriving in the mandis.
Procurement of non-basmati rice varieties commenced on October 1, and during the first 15 days, 96% of the paddy was purchased in the mandis. However, the ongoing strike has severely affected the lifting process. Out of the 22.70 lakh tonnes of paddy purchased to date, 22.37 lakh tonnes were procured by government agencies, and the remaining 33,000 tonnes were sold to private players.
Disturbingly, 17 out of 22 districts in Punjab have reported over 50% of paddy waiting to be lifted. Tarn Taran, for instance, has seen a maximum arrival of 2.90 lakh tonnes, of which 2.81 lakh tonnes were purchased. However, until the evening of October 15, 80% of the paddy remained to be lifted. Similarly, in Patiala, out of the 2.36 lakh tonnes that arrived in the mandis, only 29% had been lifted by Sunday.
The ongoing millers' strike, coupled with the delayed lifting of paddy, poses a significant challenge to the state's procurement and distribution system, especially at a time when paddy arrivals are expected to increase. The concerned authorities and stakeholders are hoping for a swift resolution to mitigate the potential negative impact on the food supply chain and public distribution.