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Grain moisture: Farmers at mercy of rice millers, arhtiyas 

Moga: Even as the Punjab government has issued specific guidelines for paddy procurement in the state mandis, but, farmers allege that they were falling victim to the alleged nexus between the commission agents and rice millers.During a visit to the grain markets at Moga, Dharamkot and a few other places in the district, it was found that rice millers were making rounds of the mandis and bargaining for larger deductions citing high moisture content in the grains.Farmers said they were being forced to sell their produce by offering large deductions of 6 kg to 8 kg per quintal leading to financial losses to them.“I had to sell my produce at a deduction of 6 kg per quintal as the commission agent and the rice miller said the moisture content was much higher to the level of 25 per cent against the permissible limit of 17 per cent,” said Baljit Singh, a farmer, who was sitting in the grain market at Dharamkot on a smoggy day waiting for his turn to sell the produce.The farmer said he was forced to sell his produce at the “mercy and will” of the commission agent and the rice miller because he could not wait for drying the grains as there had been no sunlight for the past few days. Fans were hardly helpful in reducing the moisture content.Most of the farmers alleged that on the last days of the procurement, the commission agents were helping the rice millers to have their way in finalising the prices, citing one reason or another.Inderpreet Singh Bunty, a commission agent, said the main reason for the rice millers having their say in the purchase was that the state government, in its paddy procurement policy for the year 2017, had entrusted the rice millers with the task of transporting the grains and charging the money accordingly from the procurement agencies. The millers would be responsible for transportation and storage of the paddy grains. Taking advantage of this loophole of paddy procurement policy, the millers were fleecing the farmers. Earlier, the procurement agencies used to purchase and transport paddy to rice mills.As per the details available, more than 1,25,674 metric tonnes of paddy was still in the grain markets of Moga district for lifting till Saturday evening. As much as 12,49,823 metric tonnes of paddy has arrived in the mandis so far. The slow lifting of the produce has also created a scarcity of space in mandis.General secretary of the BKU (Ekta) Sukhdev Singh Kokri alleged that there was a nexus between the rice millers, government employees of the mandi board, employees of the procurement agencies and commission agents, who were looting the farmers citing the reason of high moisture content in grains.Balwinder Singh, another farmer alleged that the farmers had complained to the district authorities of the Food and Civil Supplies Department that the rice millers were making the purchase at low prices citing high moisture content in grains even without examining the paddy, but, the government authorities had hardly taken steps to help the farmers.Farmers have demanded that the government must make it mandatory to measure moisture content of paddy of each and every farmer. The moisture content should be mentioned on the produce where it is kept in the mandis, in the marketing committee register and also in the J-form to end this fraud because the farmers are being misled by commission agents.

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