Debates Over Decision of West Bengal to Buy Rice from Open Market

The target of buying paddy at support price has not been met. Meanwhile, the West Bengal State Food Department is trying to buy rice from the open market. It has triggered controversy. Opponents claim that the move will deprive farmers. Food officials did not comment. However, State Food Minister Rathin Ghosh claimed, “Buying rice at subsidized price has nothing to do with buying open market rice. FCI is not allocating wheat for ration. It has been decided to buy rice from open market to give consumers extra rice instead of wheat.”

Words from ministers and leaders

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According to department sources, tenders were called for the purchase of six and a half lakh tonnes of rice earlier this month. Tenders have started opening from Thursday. However, the rice traders claim that the government has almost stopped giving coarse rice to the market. Biswajit Mallick, convener of the West Bengal Rice Traders’ Association, said, “Gold coarse rice is not coming to the market now. Many are holding on to selling it to the government. As a result, the price of fine rice like Minikit goes up.” However, according to Abdul Malek, head of the State Rice Mill Owners’ Association, “If the government buys rice in the open market, the rising price of rice will come under control.”

According to the Food Department, the state has set a target of buying 5.5 million tonnes of paddy but has so far procured 49 lakh tonnes. Krishna Ghosh, the state leader of the BJP’s farmers’ organization, quipped, “Farmers are deprived because the government cannot buy paddy at support prices. On the contrary, now they have to buy rice from the market!” Amal Haldar, state secretary of the Krishak Sabha, claimed, “The government is setting the stage to pave the way for multinational corporations in the rice mill industry.” Purnendu Basu, state president of the Trinamool Farmers and Field Workers Association, said he would look into the matter and comment later.

According to food department sources, paddy will be bought at support price for another three months. But there is no crowd of farmers who are interested in selling paddy in Kisan Mandi for several months. While there is a target of buying paddy for 50 people daily, 5-7 people are selling paddy. Because, where the support price is 1,940 rupees per quintal, the farmers are selling paddy to the traders at the price of 1,700 to 1,750 rupees per quintal sitting at home.

Farmer Jamal Sheikh of East Burdwan, Samir Kumar Mallick claims, “Paddy prices have gone up in the open market for the last one month. But paying the rent for the truck to take the paddy to the paddy procurement centre (even though the government pays twenty rupees per quintal, farmers claim that the actual cost is higher), in addition to paying for lifting and unloading rice sacks, there is a lot of risk. It is better to sell paddy to the traders.”