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May 11, 2011 at 10:44pm IST

Andhra CM appoints team to check paddy storage

Hyderabad: Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy has stepped in to stop the rotting of grain. Just hours after CNN-IBN reported a record harvest of grain rotting because of lack of storage facilities Reddy has appointed a team of 10 IAS officers to supervise paddy procurement and has issued instructions to minimise wastage by ensuring a supply of gunny bags to warehouses.

He has also reportedly asked officials to look into whether government schools and colleges in the area can be used for temporary storage.

CNN-IBN had reported that Andhra Pradesh farmers were forced into distress sale of paddy after the government failed to lift the grain since there is no space to store it. Andhra Pradesh government sources say only 25 per cent of the yield can be bought as there is no space to store grain.

Farmers have been demanding the government to lift the ban on rice exports to prevent it from rotting in the open.

"Farmers have spent four months in growing rice. But there is no clarity about the government's plan to buy the rice," says a farmer Raghav Reddy.

The bumper harvest has turned bitter for Raghav Reddy. He spent Rs 1,400 to produce one quintal of rice, which he is now forced to sell at Rs 800. With prices crashing he is not even getting the promised minimum support price of Rs 1030. With eight acres of land, Raghav's story echoes across Nalgonda district in Andhra Pradesh.

"Farmers are selling each quintal of rice for about Rs 800-850, incurring heavy losses as the government is not buying their crop," says Nagendernath, President, Andhra Farmer's Forum.

All the space available with the Food Corporation of India (FCI), state and even private agencies, Andhra Pradesh can store just 36 lakh metric tonnes food grain. With 4 lakh metric tonnes already spilling over, a bumper harvest of 67 lakh metric tonnes will make matters worse.

While the Andhra rice farmers facing lack of any storage infrastructure, forcing them to store the grain out in the open, what's making it worse for them, they say, are the heavy restrictions on exporting their crop, making them sell these grain much below the minimum support price, as a desperate measure to save whatever they can from the inclement weather.

Rice millers are quick to cash in on the crisis. In Miriyalguda, one of the largest market yards of the state, millers reportedly produce fake certificates showing that they've paid the minimum support price to farmers. They then use to claim the money from the FCI. The state's civil supplies minister says he is aware of this.

"Yes, reports of fake minimum support price certificates have been brought to our notice. There is the lacuna we are trying to plug. We have asked the district collector to be more vigilant," says Andhra Pradesh Civil Supplies Minister Sridhar Babu.

Andhra Pradesh has allowed farmers to sell their paddy in other states with the Centre clearly unwilling to go for exports, at least before monsoons.

For now Raghav Reddy will have to bear the brunt of inadequate storage and a bumper harvest.