The government has decided to relax quality norms for the ongoing rabi wheat procurement drive by the Food Corporation of India.
Extending much-needed relief to farmers affected by unseasonal rains and hailstorms in many states, food minister Ram Vilas Paswan on Wednesday said the government has decided to relax quality norms in terms of moisture content, loss of shine and damaged grains for the ongoing rabi wheat procurement drive by the Food Corporation of India (FCI) and state government-owned agencies.
Paswan said the wheat crop having a moisture content up to 14% would be purchased by agencies from the farmers. “Under the Food Safety and Standard Act, moisture content up to 14% in the grain is maximum permissible for human consumption and this cannot be relaxed further,” Paswan said.
He also noted that no states have asked for relaxation in moisture content norm in wheat crops so far.
Stating that farmers are facing an acute distress because of the damage caused to crops by unseasonal rain and hailstorms in many parts of the country, Congress president Sonia Gandhi in a letter to food minister Paswan had urged the government to relax specifications for procurement of wheat.
“Extraordinary situation calls for a suspension of regulations, which are enforceable in ordinary conditions,” she had said.
In case of lose of shine and damaged grains, the norms for wheat procurement has already been relaxed for Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.
Against the prescribed standard of 6% for the broken grains in wheat crop, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan have been allowed to have broken grains up to 10% and 9% respectively.
Paswan said the food ministry is ready to consider procurement relaxation norms in other wheat growing states.
“The wheat crop is yet to arrive in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh and both the states have been requested to collect the grain samples from affected areas jointly with FCI and get them tested in regional FCI labs to avoid delay and submit report to the centre,” a food ministry communication to states has said.
As per the agriculture ministry data, wheat crop in around 6.2 million hectare (mh) out of total sown area of 30.6 mh have been damaged due to rains and hailstorms, the output could decline further.
Due to delay in the harvest, wheat procurement by the government owned agencies in northern states such as Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan have been delayed by more than three weeks and is expected to commence only at the end of the current month.
While FCI has a wheat stocks of close to 20 million tonne at the start of March, which is far more than the buffer stocks requirement of only 7 million tonne. The government is aiming at purchasing 30 million tonne of wheat during current marketing season (April – June).