Hundreds of farmers on Saturday stacked their paddy produce on major roads in different western Odisha districts, protesting against “faulty procurement procedures.”
Farmers alleged that they were facing the possibility of selling paddy at much lower than market prices this harvest season as the government was not ready to procure a higher volume of paddy.
Under the banner of the Western Odisha Farmer Orgnisations Coordination Committee (WOFOCC), farmers blocked the road at Sindurpank in Sambalpur district with trucks and tractor-loads of paddy.
Protesting farmers in western Odisha districts such as Sambalpur, Deogarh, Balangir, Bargarh and Subarnapur said they were prepared for long haul. Hundreds of vehicles were found stranded on both sides of protest sites. The WOFOCC leaders announced that farmers would not budge from roads until the State government facilitated smooth procurement for them.
“The State government announced it would procure only 19 quintals of paddy per acre of irrigated land and 13 quintals from one acre of non-irrigated land in the current procurement season. But farmers have produced around 27-28 quintals of paddy per acre this year,” said Ashok Pradhan, the convener of WOFOCC.
“Taking huge risks during the COVID-19 pandemic, farmers have come up with bumper paddy production. The government should have made prior assessment of the scenario. The government determined the volume of paddy procurement by sitting at the capital city of Bhubaneswar. Now farmers don’t know how to dispose the excess produce,” Mr. Pradhan pointed out.
Farmer leader Lingaraj said, “It is a dangerous trend of centralising the paddy procurement system, which has led to a grave situation. If the State government does not address farmers’ grievances, the protests will only be intensified.”
Meanwhile, Randendra Pratap Swain, Minister, Food Supplies and Consumer Welfare and Cooperation, said some vested interests were instigating farmers.
“Paddy procurement is going on smoothly. As of today, 4,68,110 metric tonnes of paddy have been procured in the current kharif procurement season. The total volume of paddy procured is 56% higher than the corresponding period last year,” said Mr. Swain.
Simultaneous verification of farmers’ identity was also being undertaken and tokens were also being issued, said the Minister.