Sultanpur Lodhi: Rice mill operations hit as FCI cites storage crunch to refuse fresh stock
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The rice mills in Sultanpur Lodhi are facing a crisis due to discontinuation of the transportation of foodgrains from the town’s FCI (Food Corporation of India) godown on account of upgradation of the railway station here. With no foodgrain movement from the godown since May this year, the FCI has no space to accommodate rice from the current season’s crop which the mills are to process from paddy procured by the corporation. “With the FCI refusing to take it, where we will send it,” said Anil Arora, owner of a rice mill in Sultanpur Lodhi.
As the Sultanpur Lodhi station was being upgraded for the 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak, the platform for the goods train was modified for passenger trains to handle the rush. A new line and a new goods train platform is yet to come up to resume the reloading of foodgrains from here. The millers say that they cannot start milling paddy as the rice thus produced must be supplied to the FCI godown for storage within 24 hours.
As a result, the milling that should have started in September is yet to get underway and hundreds of workers are facing the brunt.
Around 98,000 tonnes of milled rice from last year (worth Rs 325 crore) is lying in this FCI godown, leaving no space for new rice this season. Also, 68,000 metric tonnes of wheat worth Rs 160 crore has been lying in the open.
This year’s 1.75 lakh tonnes of paddy worth Rs 350 crores procured by Punjab government has already been stored in the mills which will make rice and supply to the FCI. But the FCI has refused to take milled rice of the new crop because it has no space for fresh rice.
There are 21 mills in Sultanpur Lodhi having a capacity of 100 tonnes milling per hour as the mills run 24×7 when milling begins.
“As per the agreement with the FCI, the millers have to supply rice to FCI by March 31 and if we start milling paddy, we have to supply milled paddy in the form of rice to the FCI with in 24 hours of milling,” said Anil Arora, who is also a member of the Sultanpur Lodhi Rice Millers Association. He added that their appeals to the FCI over the past four months had fallen on deaf ears.
Railway authorities said that a new platform and new line is required for the goods train, which will take around six months.
Rakesh Dhir, president of the rice millers association, said that this is the only industry that Sultanpur Lodhi has and it is on the verge of being ruined due to the present crisis.
Freshly procured paddy is generally stored in rice mills, which then supply milled rice to government godowns. Millers get Rs 10 per quintals for milling. As per the agreement, the Millers have to supply rice to the FCI by May-June every year.
“If milling doesn’t start soon, we will miss the deadline. After March, breakage and discolouring problems are seen in the milled rice which are against the specification of the FCI,” said secretary of the association, Narinder Nayyar.
“Our labour is sitting idle as they have no other source of income to feed their families,” added Dhir.
Division Manager, FCI, Kapurthala, Kamal Kishore Shondilya , said that the railways had assured them a new platform and track by November 15, but now they were demanding more time. Now, railways has assured us loading facility at Shahkot, he added.