paddy farmers and agents in Kuttanad are often at odds with each other because of Mills demanding huge discounts to procure paddy.
The impasse has led to inordinate delays in procurement at a number of places.
Farmers and experts want the government to intervene and conduct a standardized testing exercise.
According to the Food Corporation of India, the maximum moisture content in paddy should not be more than 18%. The maximum limit for immature, shrunken and shrivelled grains is 3%, foreign matter, and damaged, discoloured, sprouted and weevilled grains are 4% and 5%, respectively.
Farmers say that agents sometimes demand a discount of up to 10 kilogram per quintal of paddy after some of the specifications exceed the maximum limit. After measuring the amount of water in the paddy, mills have hired agents to buy it. Farmers are forced to accept their terms in order for them to participate in the procurement process.
“For example, agents will bring their own equipment to measure moisture and then provide a measurement. If the equipment gives a measurement of 24%, we have to give a discount of seven kg per quintal as per the rules. There is every chance that agents manipulate measurements and are using uncalibrated equipment. There are instances when equipment in the possession of the paddy marketing officer and agent gave different measurements. It is very difficult for us to cross-check the measurements as paddy polder committees and Krishi Bhavans lack such machines,” says Chackappan Antony, a paddy farmer from Champakulam, adding that this time the agents are mostly focusing on shrunken and shrivelled grains to get the discount.
Mr. Antony urges the government to allocate moisture measuring meters to Krishi Bhavans in Kuttanad. “We are ready to give discounts based on correct measurements. But agents should not be allowed to harass farmers. Paddy polder committees can also consider buying their own equipment to avoid stand-offs,” he says.
The M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation Kuttanad Centre is calling for a scientific approach to address the problem.
Whenever there is a dispute between farmers and agents, the officials of the State Civil Supplies Corporation and the Agriculture department try to find a solution. The majority of the paddy is below FAQ. Quality checks are not required in Kuttanad. We are allowing mills and farmers to come to an agreement. In eight out of the 10 paddy polders, there is no issue.