Chandigarh, May 31( Wishavwarta)-As the curtains came down on Asia’s largest wheat procurement operations in Punjab, Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Sunday thanked the farmers, the Arthiyas, labourers and all government agencies for successful procurement of a whopping 128 LMT of wheat despite the COVID-19 challenge.

The Chief Minister complimented the Departments of Agriculture and Food & Civil Supplies, along with their agencies including MARKFED, Punjab State Warehousing Corporation, PUNSUP, as well as the FCI, on this remarkable feat. Due to the elaborate mandi arrangements and operational management of the staggered arrival of wheat, COVID-19 failed to put a spoke in the gigantic wheat procurement operation, lasting one-and-a-half month, during the just concluded Rabi Marketing Season, he said.

Captain Amarinder said the patience and discipline, along with adherence of all involved in the operation with strict health and safety measures put in place for harvesting, procurement and storage of wheat, had ensured zero Covid cases in the entire process. They had together ensured the country’s sustained self-sustenance in food even in these trying circumstances, he added.

The Chief Minister also appreciated Food & Civil Supplies Minister Bharat Bhushan Ashu for successfully accomplishing the massive task of wheat procurement, besides prompt lifting and ensuring timely payment to the farmers for their produce. He lauded the concerted efforts of Deputy Commissioners, GoGs and police personnel, as well as other government staff involved in the procurement process.

Meanwhile, ACS Development Viswajeet Khanna said that to facilitate the pre-harvesting necessities during lockdown, the Department of Agriculture had successfully coordinated the tracking, screening and supervision of all combine operators entering Punjab borders, till the completion of the harvesting operation. Medical check-up of such combine operators was ensured before the start of work, and sanitization of combine harvesting machines and straw reapers was ensured by department, apart from enforcing social distancing, face masking and hand washing measures.

ACS further said that Punjab Mandi Board provided COVID safety stations in every mandi, each of which was equipped with a hands free hand washing unit and sanitizer, in addition to free distribution of 1.6 lakh masks and 35000 ltrs of sanitizers.

The ACS further said that with the innovative arrangements undertaken during the current procurement, the number of mandis was increased from last year’s 1837 to 4000, besides issuing 17.39 Lakh online passes to farmers through Arthiyas to regulate arrival of their produce.

Principal Secretary Food & Civil Supplies KAP Sinha disclosed that of the wheat sown across 35.08 Lac hectares, 127.62 LMT had been procured by the agencies during this difficult phase. Sangrur district topped in terms of arrival, with 12.23 LMT, which is almost 10 percent of the state’s total arrival, followed by Muktsar (9.68LMT) and Bathinda (9.64LMT). Sinha further stated that the arrival curve that traditionally had spikes of above 11 LMT had been relatively flat at about 6-7 LMT per day.

The Principal Secretary said the 3 LMT shortfall in procurement compared with last year came mainly from the districts of Patiala Fazilka, Amritsar and Tarn Tarn, while Ludhiana, Sangrur and Jalandhar districts posted higher procurement this year.