Chandigarh: For the first time in decades, Punjab and Haryana have together recorded the highest-ever procurement figures for wheat. The neighbouring states have procured over 200 lakh tonnes of wheat this year following a bumper crop.
While Punjab, which alone contributes over 60 per cent of the food grain to the national kitty, has already procured a record 120 lakh tonnes of wheat, Haryana has also set a record by procuring over 81 lakh tonnes of the crop.
"Farmers of Punjab have made every Punjabi proud by their achievement. This reflects the hard work done by the farmers," Punjab's Food and Supplies Minister Adesh Pratap Singh Kairon said here.
Punjab had created a record last year by procuring over 112 lakh tonnes of wheat. This year till Friday, nearly 121 lakh tonnes have been procured.
The two northern states are known as the food bowl of India since they contribute over 70 per cent of the food grain, wheat and rice, to the national kitty.
Government agencies in both the states have procured the 200 lakh tonnes of wheat this year. This accounts for over 99 per cent of the total wheat arrival.
Both states make payments of up to Rs.25,000 crore to farmers during the procurement season (April 1 to June 15).
Officials of the Punjab Food and Supplies Department say the final procurement figure will go up even more this year as the season is far from over.
Starting April 1, procurement picked up mostly after Baisakhi (April 13), the festival of harvest, and will last till June 15.
"The resilient farmers of the state have really done the state proud by once again proving their mettle through contributing a record production of food grain in the central pool," Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal said here Friday.
"The record production of wheat in the state despite odds faced by the farmers due to the exorbitant rise in input costs of agriculture and the vagaries of weather speaks volumes about their unbounded sincerity, dedication and commitment to make the country self-reliant in food production," he added.
With a total area of over 50,360 square km and ranked 19th among the country's 28 states in land area, Punjab's food grain production is an achievement. The state occupies only 1.54 per cent of the country's land area.
The Punjab government has set up 1,750 procurement centres at grain markets across the state.
However, the happiness over the record procurement has been subdued by the shortage of gunny bags to store the wheat and lack of storage facilities to accommodate the huge volumes of grain.
Both Haryana and Punjab have, in the past one year, complained to the central government that they did not have enough storage facility for food grain.
The storage shortfall is 30-40 per cent. With a bumper harvest, the shortage is likely to go up.
While the Congress, the Opposition party in Punjab, is blaming the Parkash Singh Badal government for not procuring gunny bags on time, the government is blaming the central government for the shortage.
"It is wrong for the Punjab government to blame the centre for shortage of gunny bags for wheat. The centre had released the money a long time back but the state government did not procure the bags on time," Congress leader Laal Singh said.
In Haryana, the shortage of gunny bags has even been attributed to the a bumper wheat crop in states such as Madhya Pradesh.
Haryana's Cooperation Minister Satpal Sangwan said: "This year, a bumper wheat crop has been recorded and many farmers from neighbouring states have reached Haryana's anaj mandis (grain markets) for selling wheat. One of the reasons for the scarcity of gunny bags in the state is due to bumper crop production in Madhya Pradesh. The bags, which were supposed to reach Haryana, reached Madhya Pradesh first."
This year, Madhya Pradesh has recorded 85 to 90 lakh tonnes of wheat production against a target of about 60 lakh tonnes.
Haryana's Food and Supplies Minister Mahender Pratap Singh said, "The bumper crop in Haryana this year makes us proud."