Abundant water aside, uncertainty looms large over Rabi in Telangana

Delay in decision over taking up alternative crops, lack of preparedness to cost dear

The issue revolving around paddy procurement has completely overshadowed an otherwise promising agriculture year (2021-22) that has a good first half — kharif season — in terms of area covered and production in spite of excess rains having adverse impact on some of the major crops, mainly cotton and pulses.

As the major political parties kept blaming each other on the State government’s decision advising farmers not to cultivate paddy this rabi season unless they have any tie-up with rice millers, traders and seed companies or for own consumption, the farming community is left in the lurch with the uncertainty reigning supreme over taking up other crops, particularly from the point of view of their marketing.

The Opposition Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have been accusing the State government of sleeping over the issue of parboiled rice produced in rabi season although the Centre has made its mind clear about not procuring parboiled rice, only which is produced mostly in Telangana in rabi, in August itself. The State government on its part has started reacting on it only from the November first week seriously.

As there was no clarity on cultivating paddy in rabi till December second week, the farming community was in dilemma till the last moment on taking up alternative crops such as oilseeds in addition to pulses. Non-availability of seed of certain oilseed crops such as safflower and sunflower and lack of assurance on their marketing (procurement) have also added to the farmers’ inability to make up mind.

“Farmers in the State are in a strange situation of having abundant water in projects this season but not in a position to raise paddy on a large scale. It would have easily crossed 60-lakh acre mark this rabi against about 53 lakh acres covered in the last rabi,” a senior official said preferring not to be quoted.

Uncertainty looms large also over the procurement of entire paddy produce of the kharif season as the Centre/Food Corporation of India (FCI) has agreed to procure an additional 10 lakh tonnes of paddy over 60 lakh tonnes agreed upon initially. However, a delegation of Telangana ministers and Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) MPs that met Union Minister for Food and Public Distribution Piyush Goyal has requested him to increase the procurement limit at least to 80 lakh tonnes.

Against the production of paddy estimated by the Ministry of Agriculture at about 75.4 lakh tonnes from 59.35 lakh acres cultivated, the State government has put the production at around 1.4 crore tonnes from 61.95 lakh acres. Chairman of the Telangana State Civil Supplies Corporation (TSCSC) M. Srinivas Reddy alleged Centre’s discrimination against Telangana stating that Kharif paddy procured from Punjab was nearly 1.87 crore tonnes till December 27.

Minister for Agriculture S. Niranjan Reddy, who suggested farmers, through an open letter, to go for alternative crops earlier this month, said the State government would be better prepared for promoting alternative crops from next year including making quality seed for such crops available.

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