Chandigarh, May 18 (IANS) What was supposed to be a bumper crop with a record target for wheat procurement has turned out to be a dampener with much lower quantities of wheat arriving in grain markets across Punjab and Haryana - the country's breadbasket.
Punjab has barely managed to procure 11 million tonnes of wheat while Haryana has seen just over 5.86 million tonnes arriving this season.
"Contrary to expectations of a bumper crop and record procurement, the actual arrival and procurement of wheat is much less in both states," a senior agriculture officer in Punjab told IANS.
Punjab and Haryana were looking at a procurement of over 14 million tonnes and nine million tonnes respectively this year. Both states contribute over 70 percent of the total foodgrain (wheat and paddy) respectively to the national kitty.
"The procurement season is all but over and both the states have procured less than 16 million tonnes of wheat against a combined target of 23 million tonnes," the officer said.
But agriculture and food and supplies officers in both the states say that the procurement season is still not officially over, even though no big miracles are likely.
"The erratic weather conditions over the region earlier this year have led to much less yields per hectare compared to last year. In some cases, bigger farmers are holding back their wheat stocks to get better prices from exports, which the central government has partially allowed," another officer in Punjab said.
Compared to 12.5 million tonnes procured in Punjab by May 1 last year, the state has been able to procure only 11 million tonnes till May 16.
In 2012, Punjab had procured a record 12.9 million tonnes of wheat. Agriculture department officials were expecting a bumper crop of over 16 million tonnes this year with the food and supplies department setting itself a procurement target of 14 million tonnes.
The Punjab government had secured over Rs. 19,998 crore from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) this year for payment to farmers for the wheat being procured.
In Haryana, wheat arrivals had surpassed all records last year with over 8.33 million tonnes arriving by May 13. The previous record of wheat procurement of 6. 9 million tonnes was in 2011. This year, the arrivals are only 5.86 million tonnes till May 16.
Having achieved the highest wheat production in the state since 1966, farmers in Haryana became richer by Rs 10,697 crore that was paid to them for the procured wheat. Almost the entire stock was procured by government agencies.
Haryana was created as a separate state Nov 1, 1966. Before that, its areas were part of Punjab.
(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at email@example.com)