"In the last sixty days since the procurement season kicked off, the government agencies have made paddy procurement of only 60,000 tons," an official of the state agriculture department said.

Another official of the department said that slow procurement of paddy so far shows the poor record of the concerned agencies.

"It is going to be a big challenge for the government agencies to procure 25,000 tons of paddy on a daily basis from now to fulfill the target by April 15," the official said.

Bihar Food and Civil Supplies Minister Shyam Rajak, however, said the government is hopeful of achieving its target.

"In fact, paddy procurement will speed up by the end of January or in the beginning of February. We will try best to fulfill the target," Rajak said.

According to officials, slow procurement of paddy is a result of government's failure to open procurement centres in all panchayats.

"The government announced it would open 6,098 procurement centres at Primary Agriculture Cooperative Societies in panchayats but only 1,074 centres were opened till Thursday," an official said.

According to reports from different districts, the slow procurement has forced farmers to go for distress sell of paddy to traders and agents of rice mills. Rajak claimed the agencies have been asked to check distress sell of paddy and to help farmers by procuring their paddy without delay. The drought has affected hundreds of thousands of people, particularly farmers, in Bihar.

The government had last year declared 33 of its 38 districts as drought-hit on account of poor rains during the monsoon season. The state recorded 25 percent deficit in its annual rainfall. After attaining record paddy production of over 80 lakh tons in the last kharif season, Bihar has harvested around 50 lakh tons of paddy this year as poor rains in July-August badly hit transplantation of paddy.

Rice production in Bihar was 36.4 lakh tons in 2009-10 which increased to 81.87 lakh tons in 2011-12 and 87 lakh tons in 2012-13.

(Agencies)

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