Harvest of rice has started in almost all parts of the country. This year again, as always, the provincial governments are silent about what they are doing to ensure that a fair return is accrued to the rice grower. As has been the case in the past, once all the rice is sold by farmers to the middle-man, the food departments of the provincial governments finally wake up to their responsibility of announcing the rates of government buying. As always, the benefit of their announcement goes to the middleman alone. The farmer, having sold out, remains high and dry. Last year, the paddy KS-282 was sold by the farmer to the middleman for about Rs.700 to Rs.800 / maund. This year the purchase rate announced by the middlemen is Rs.550/ maund and they will get it the way they want. Needless to say, the cost of cultivation for the farmer went up by about 40% due to increase in electricity bills, higher cost of fertilizer and other inputs. The amount he will get for his higher cost produce, though, would be much less than last year. Does our government wish that there be little or no sowing of rice next year? If the answer is no, appropriate action has be taken now to safeguard interest of the farmer. -FAROOQ QURESHI, Lahore, October 1.