The Food Corporation of India (FCI) will undertake open market sale of 2 million tonne of wheat to bulk buyers such as flour millers, next month to curb rising prices of the grain. Sources told FE the inter-ministerial group is likely to give the nod for the sales soon.
Following the government decision to discontinue the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana or free ration scheme from December 31, 2022, the FCI is likely to have 3 MT of surplus wheat stock by the end of the current fiscal against the buffer.
As per latest assessment, the wheat stocks held with FCI by April 1, 2023 would be a comfortable 11.3 MT against a buffer of 7.4 MT.
The corporation had earlier stopped sale of wheat in the open market from its stocks for the first time more than a decade in view of a sharp drop in procurement in 2022-23 rabi marketing season and additional allocations of the grain under the free ration scheme.
The FCI has fixed Rs 2250 a quintal (excluding transportation cost) as the OMSS price. The FCI’s open market sales stood at 7 MT in 2021-22 and 2.5 MT in 2020-21.
Wheat will be offered to small flour millers across all the depots in smaller quantities while in the previous years, when the grain used to be offered to large buyers from depots in Punjab. The FCI usually follows Minimum Support Price (MSP) and freight cost to the delivery points from Punjab as cost for OMSS.
“We would like to keep wheat prices under check, prior to commencement of procurement season which begins from April 1, 2023,” an official said. The MSP announced for wheat to be procured during 2023-24 marketing season (April-June) is Rs 2125/quintal.
Sources said that if mandi prices of wheat prevails far above MSP, it would adversely impact the government’s MSP procurement drive. According to the department of consumer affairs’ price monitoring cell data, the modal retail price of wheat and flour (atta) on Monday rose to Rs 28/kg and Rs 35/kg, respectively, from Rs 22/kg and Rs 28/kg six months ago.
Wheat retail inflation rose by 17.6% in November 2022 on year.
Wheat output in the 2021-22 crop year (July-June), as per the agriculture ministry, has declined by around 3% on year to 106.8 MT because of heat waves during the flowering stage of the crop in March.
Due lower production and higher global demand, FCI’s procurement in the 2022-23 marketing season fell by more than 56.6% to only 18.8 MT against 43.3 MT purchased from the farmers in the previous year.
In May, 2022, India banned wheat exports for ensuring domestic supplies.
The cabinet last week did not extend the free ration scheme beyond December, 2022. The government, however, decided to provide 5 kg of grains monthly per head under the National Food Security Act, free of cost to 813 million beneficiaries during 2023.