Karnataka State Rice Mill Owners’ Association launch indefinite strike

Posted on Dec 16 2013 - 8:40pm by IBC News

BANGALORE: The cost of rice is likely to go up in the coming days if the indefinite strike by the Karnataka State Rice Mill Owners’ Association continues. The strike began on Monday in protest against government’s decision to procure five lakh tonnes of levy rice from them to meet the requirements of the flagship Anna Bhagya scheme of 30 kg of rice at Re one per kg to BPL families.

“The impact of the indefinite stir will be felt in the next couple of days particularly in Bangalore, where 20 lakh tonnes of rice come every day. All rice millers in the state have stopped procuring paddy from farmers and hulling it. Once the rice stock goes down in the market, prices will go up,” association president HS Rudraswamy told TOI.

The disagreement between the government and millers over the levy rice quota had been brewing for months after the Anna Bhagya scheme was launched. According to the association’s general secretary N Srinivasa Rao, the mill owners have been trying to convince the government that five lakh tonnes per annum was an “unscientific requirement,” and the minimum support price (MSP) of Rs 2,400 per quintal to procure the same be hiked to Rs 2,650 per qunital

According to Rao, the levy rice quota was 1.5 lakh tonnes for the past two decades. The target has been hiked four-fold now.

The cabinet meeting last week decided to stop buying rice from Chhattisgarh for Anna Bhagya and solely depend on local market. The government was buying rice at Rs 29 per kg from Chhattisgarh and the subsidy component for giving rice to 87 lakh BPL families worked to Rs 450 crore per month.

The association is also unhappy with the MSP of Rs 1,600 for procuring Sona Masuri paddy. “In Karnataka, 80% of rice produced is Sona Masuri for which there is a huge export demand. Except old Mysore area, Sona Masuri dominates other regions,” Rao said.

According to Mysore region rice millers association president YK Siddaramu the millers consume 40 to 50 units of power per tonne of paddy hulling, which had now increased to 110 units due to technical reasons. “It cost Rs 2,650 per quintal of rice against the government’s fixed price of Rs 2,400,” he added.

Food and civil supplies minister Dinesh Gundu Rao said the government will try to resolve the issue in two or three days. “They were giving three lakh tonnes earlier, which has now been hiked to five lakh tonnes. Giving levy rice is a legal requirement. We earlier wanted 13.5 lakh tonnes,” he added.

Food and civil supplies commissioner Harsh Gupta maintained that the five lakh tonne target was a small percentage. He said all these years, levy rice was being given to the Food Corporation of India, which had stopped pursuing it after began to get good quality rice from Haryana and Punjab. But now rice is needed for government schemes, he said.

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