By Pramod Kumar Jha
New Delhi: With 10 more days to go for a countrywide lockdown, the government is gradually opening the grain markets to ensure that the food supply chain is not affected while the state of virtual curfew.
India’s biggest cooperative marketing organisation, NAFED, has unlocked 35 lakh tonnes of pulses, 18 lakh tonnes of gram and several other agricultural produce from its warehouse spread across the nation to boost the food supply chain.
“Since the lockdown, we are offering over a million tonnes of pulses and gram every day for the traders…and the bids placed online are encouraging,” Sanjeev Kumar Chadha, Managing Director of NAFED told IANS.
A large scale migration of labourers from cities to their villages, and transport issues in several states, had affected the food supply chain in the world’s second most populated country where over 1.3 billion are locked in their homes to prevent spread of the pandemic, COVID-19.
The closure of grain markets, the platform for millions of farmers for selling their agriculture produce, multiplied trouble for the millers, edible oil producers and wholesalers.
“The situation is fast normalising. The Centre has already asked state governments to open the mandis (grain markets). In Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, grain markets are operational. Maharashtra is going to follow. In Rajasthan due to the spread of the pandemic government is reviewing the situation.
“Overall the inputs coming from the states are a welcome sign for farmers,” said Sanjeev Chadha, an IFS officer who is striving for financial turnaround of the NAFED since 2016 when he took the reins of the organisation.
As labourers affect the supply chain, supplies of essential commodity items like aata (wheat flour) and besan (gram flour) are running out in some parts of the country.
President of All India Dal Mills Association, Suresh Agarwal said that due to the lockdown only 25 per cent of dal (pulses) mills are operational. Subsequently the price of besan has increased in the market.
“I cannot comment on what the private millers are saying as we offer everyone to place their bids on our portal. Our system is robust and transparent as far as prices are concerned. We are selling 20-25 thousands of gram every day,” said Sanjeev Chadha, while admitting, “yes there is a little increase in the prices…but this increase is due to the bids, not from our side.”
According to him NAFED has liquidated 2 lakh tonnes of pulses, raw pulses to the millers and traders in the past few days.
Meanwhile commenting on the lockdown woes, Vice President of India Pulses and Grain Association(IPGA), Bimal Kothari said: “It’s a problem of 5 to 10 days. It’s a temporary problem due to shortage of labourers, transportation issues etc…I hope after the lockdown things will improve. The government is on the job to resolve the issues arising out of the curfew like situation. The traders are buying from NAFED, and will buy more once grain markets are operational.”