The Food Corporation of India (FCI) has surplus stocks of parboiled rice that can help the central pool to meet the demand from the consuming States over the next four years, according to Sudanshu Pandey, Union Food and Public Distribution Secretary.
“Not only Telangana but even from Chhattisgarh, parboiled rice procurement is not being done,” the Food Secretary said.
While deciding not to procure parboiled rice from Telangana, the FCI said it would be willing to procure white rice.
“We had communicated our decision well in advance to the Telangana government. In fact, we had consulted with the State government while fixing the procurement volume,” said Pandey. He was responding to a query from BusinessLine on views of rice traders that Telangana was trying to mislead them on the rice procurement issue.
Last season, the FCI had been reluctant to procure parboiled rice. But Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao met officials at the Centre and convinced them to buy an additional 2.47 million tonnes (mt). In doing so, he came to an understanding that the corporation will not procure from the rabi harvest season starting April next.
The State government has told the farmers that the FCI will not procure parboiled rice from April next and that they should switch to alternative crops. However, the issue got politicised with the Opposition, led by the BJP, crying foul and Rao blaming the Centre for the problems. On Friday, the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) staged protests against the FCI decision not to procure parboiled rice.
In contrast, Opposition parties point out that procurement of kharif rice is yet to begin in the State. They have launched a separate agitation demanding its immediate purchase.
Pandey said one reason for the FCI to cut its parboiled rice purchase is that some States have developed their own variety and use their own decentralised procurement system (DCP) for own consumption.
“Kerala and Bihar have their own parboiled rice and use their DCP. Therefore, there is no demand from the central pool (for parboiled rice). What do we do after procuring it?” the Secretary said. Telangana should adhere to the understanding reached with the Centre, he said. Rice traders said the problem for the Telangana government is if farmers opt to produce more white rice, they get brokens.
The problem for farmers is that during February-March the hot conditions result in the grains getting broken. In order to overcome it, they opt for the parboiled variety.
On this, Pandey said: “Telangana farmers cultivate high-yielding varieties but these break up easily during milling. To avoid this, they steam the paddy so that they gain in yield as well as price. Efforts have to be made to reduce the brokens,” he said.
People in Telangana do not consume parboiled rice, which is being produced for consumption by other States. Now, it has hit a hurdle with the consuming States coming up with their own mechanism, traders said.