The Telegraph
Sunday , June 29 , 2014
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Food centre hope for maize tillers

- Farmers rue absence of minimum support price

Bhagalpur/Patna, June 28: The government’s failure to fix minimum support price of maize and reduced exports have dealt a blow to farmers in the Kosi, eastern Bihar and Seemanchal regions.

Farmers in the regions, better known as makka patti (maize strip), who have incurred a loss of approximately Rs 30 lakh this year, have decided not to venture in the fields in the coming years.

However, some hope is in sight for the disgruntled maize farmers.

Union food and public distribution minister Ram Vilas Paswan yesterday said the Food Corporation of India (FCI) would soon open centres for buying maize as part of the distribution of coarse cereal along with rice and wheat under the Food Security Act.

He said this after meeting chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi in Patna. The minister said he had given instructions in this regard to U.K. Chauhan, the joint food secretary, so that farmers get benefit of it in the current crop season.

Paswan said owing to absence of government procurement of maize, farmers in a state like Bihar did not get adequate return for their produce.

Over the past decade, parts of districts like Saharsa, Khagaria, Araria, Munger, Purnea, Madhepura in Kosi, apart from Naugachia and Kahalgaon in Bhagalpur and Katihar emerged as high-yielding regions with more than over 1,18,000 hectares under maize cultivation.

The slide in the price of maize to Rs 9 per kg poured water on the farmers’ hard labour. “Initially, many of us sold maize at Rs 10.50 per kg after the harvest in March-April this year. Last year, maize was sold at Rs 14 per kg,” said Monohar Mandal, the mukhiya of Ishmilepur in Bhagalpur. At many places in the region, the maize husk, used as cattle fodder, is sold at Rs 800-850 per quintal, while the cost of maize is Rs 600-700 per quintal.

Ramkishore, the convener of Diara Mukti Andolan, a Bhagalpur-based social organisation fighting for the cause of farmers in the diara region of Ganga, said: “The fall in the rates of maize has caused heavy losses to many small farmers. Farmers in Shankarpur mouza have decided not to cultivate maize despite its high yield in the fertile diaras in this region.”

Bindeshwari Mandal, a CPI-ML(Liberation) leader and a maize farmer at Raghopur in Bhagalpur, said: “The expenditure in cultivating maize on each acre costs exceeds Rs 26,000, while it produces approximately 35 quintal.”

A farmer gets Rs 31,500 from each acre by selling 35 quintals of maize at Rs 9 per kg. Hence, a farmer earns a marginal profit of only Rs 5,500 from each acre of maize field. However, small-scale farmers faced losses this time.”

Lallan Kumar Roy, a maize farmer, said owing to the dip in maize export to other parts of the country, including Bangladesh, farmers here have to face immense difficulties.

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