This is the first time in the state that paddy would be procured from farmers by the FCI Credit: File image

Agartala: The state-owned Food Corporation of India (FCI) has decided to procure rice from eight blocks of Tripura starting from December 15. These blocks are Matabari, Mohanbhog, Teliamura, Jirania, Kakraban, Mohanpur, Khowai and Bishalgarh.

In a first-of-its-kind initiative, the Centre had given in-principle nod to Tripura chief minister Biplab Kumar Deb during his meeting with Union food minister Ram Vilas Paswan in New Delhi in October that the FCI would start its rice procurement process from December 15 until February 15 next year.

As part of the initiative, the FCI will procure paddy directly from farmers at a minimum support price (MSP) and get it milled at a rate of Rs 15-20 per quintal on behalf of the state government for distribution through the public distribution system (PDS).

Interested farmers are requested to contact officials of the agriculture department to register their names and particulars. However, procurement will be done only after the quality of rice is checked.

On Wednesday, CM Deb held a review meeting with food minister Manoj Kanti Deb to start preparations for the paddy procurement process.

Tripura produces 12 lakh tonnes of rice, while its PDS requirement is around 2.71 lakh tonnes per annum. In the absence of procurement, rice is being transported from Punjab for PDS distribution in the state at present.

“Farmers are not getting benefit of the MSP in Tripura in the absence of FCI procurement. Farmers are selling rice at a lower rate of Rs 12 per kg, whereas the MSP fixed by the Centre is Rs 17.50 per kg rice. We discussed about the need to start the procurement for the benefit of farmers,” CM Deb had told reporters after the meeting with Paswan in October.

Since the milling charges in Tripura are much higher than the rate fixed by the FCI, the state government has agreed to bear the difference, he said.

“FCI was not willing to procuring at a high milling rate. We have decided to bear the difference. FCI will start procurement from December onwards,” Deb had said.

Milling charge in the state is high at Rs 150 per quintal for milling, while the FCI has an uniform rate of Rs 15-20 per kg for milling for all states. Since the rice to PDS in Tripura is brought from Punjab at a transportation cost of Rs 250 per quintal, the chief minister demanded the Centre to consider a relaxation in the norm for the northeastern state in milling charges.

“Even if rice is milled at a rate of Rs 100 per quintal in Tripura, there will be a saving of Rs 100 per quintal. A separate policy for the state should be there,” he had said.

The state also demanded that a percentage of rice milled from 1 quintal of paddy to be kept at 65% instead of 68% at present. To this proposal, the ministry official said there are several demands from other states and a study is being conducted by a south-based rice institute. A decision will be taken after examining the study report.

CM Biplab Kumar Deb along with food minister Manoj Kanti Deb at a review meeting held in Agartala on Wednesday

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