Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Delay in opening rice purchase centres to deepen crisis

LARKANA, Nov 15: Leaders of growers’ organisations and rice millers foresee further deepening of crisis if the Pakistan Agricultural Storage and Supplies Corporation (Passco) delays opening procurement centres to buy rice produce from growers in Sindh and Balochistan.Ishaque Mughairi, president of Qambar-Shahdadkot chapter of the Sindh Abadgar Board, said on Saturday that the growers were compelled to sell Irri-6 rice at the rate of Rs500 to 600 per 40 kilograms in the absence of government’s procurement centres.

In Shahdadkot, which had 75 rice mills, the Basmati variety of rice was being sold at Rs700 to 800 per 40 kg, with small khatedars and growers bearing the brunt of what he called tremendous ‘cuts’ on sale of their rice produce.

The traders deduct 30 maunds from 1000 maunds of rice under different pretexts, he said.He termed government’s announcement of establishing Passco’s procurement centres an eyewash and said that no procurement centre had been set up so far in Sindh and Balochistan.He said that thing would never improve without a comprehensive procurement policy and alleged that exporters, millers and government had joined hands to squeeze out the growers.Reports from Qambar indicated that no procurement centre had been opened there and growers’ demand for enhancement in rice procurement price from Rs700 per 40 kg had fallen on deaf ears.The influential traders who had obtained wheat from government godowns at the rate of Rs675 per 40 kg were openly selling it to growers in the absence of certified seed at the rate of Rs2,000 to 2,200 per 50 kg bag, he said.

Gada Hussain Mahesar, senior vice-president of Larkana chapter of Sindh Abadgar Board, regretted the cold-shouldered attitude of the agriculture department and said that he had written to federal and provincial governments, cautioning that delay in procurement would harm wheat crop and so the economy.Mr Mahesar called for effective and timely arrangements for procuring rice and said that Sindh and Balochistan produced 2.6 million tons of rice (3.9 million tons of paddy) per year.He termed Passco’s claim about purchasing rice impracticable and said that it lacked experience and sufficient technical staff to cover all the 900 mills in both the provinces.

He disclosed that Sindh and Balochistan earned $700 million from exporting rice annually and called for convening a meeting of the representatives of growers, millers and concerned government officials to pull growers out of present crisis.Siraj Rashdi, president of the Larkana chapter of the Sindh Chamber of Agriculture, regretted non-existence of procurement centres in both the provinces and said the support price for rice at Rs700 per 40 kg was quite reasonable.He said that poor peasants were compelled to sell out their share in the yield at lower rates because they could not afford to withstand the pressure of repaying loans and meeting other requirements.

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