With unseasonal rains having delayed the harvesting of wheat crops and raising the possibility of higher moisture content in the grain, the government is likely to relax the norms for procurement by allowing grain with more moisture content and lustre loss to be purchased from the farmers.
“Recent rains just a couple of weeks prior to harvesting of the crops would result in higher moisture content and lustre loss. We have started preparations for sending teams to key wheat procuring states to assess the situation.” a food ministry official told FE.
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Under the fair and average quality standards, the Food Corporation of India (FCI) and state agencies purchase wheat at Minimum Support Price (MSP) with a maximum moisture content of 12%.
Officials said that under the relaxed norms, wheat with as high as 14% moisture content can be purchased from the farmers after receiving reports from the states by the food ministry’s team.
Last year, the food ministry had allowed purchase of wheat with lustre loss containing upto 25% affected kernels in Panna and Sagar districts of Madhya Pradesh.
According to a food ministry note, due to natural calamity such as un-seasonal rains, erratic rainfall, cyclone and adverse climatic conditions etc. which impact the quality of crops. To mitigate the hardship of farmers and avoid distress sale, the food ministry relaxes norms on moisture content and lustre loss for purchase of grain without any value cut.
Ashok Meena, Chairman and Managing Director of FCI on Tuesday said that the wheat procurement for 2023 season (April-June) has commenced in Madhya Pradesh with the purchase of 10,277 tonne of grain on the first day.
The government is aiming to purchase 34.15 million tonne (MT) of wheat in the April-June marketing season, 2023
The MSP operations in other key states – Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, which contribute significantly to central pool grain stock will start from April 1. However, arrivals in mandis are likely to increase only by the middle of next month because of the delay in harvesting of wheat due to recent rains.
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With consultation with the states, estimated wheat procurement this season include – Punjab (13.2 MT), Madhya Pradesh (8 MT) and Haryana (7.5 MT).
The buffer stock on April 1 with the FCI is estimated at 8.4 MT against the buffer norm of 7.4 MT.
To replenish the stock, the FCI and state agencies have to purchase at least 30 MT of wheat in the April-June 2023 season from farmers so that sufficient quantity of grains is available for the implementation of the National Food Security Act and creation of adequate buffer stock.
FCI needs to have a buffer of 27.57 MT of wheat by July 1.
Meena said that the wheat export ban will continue as long as India does not feel comfortable with domestic supplies. The ban on wheat shipment was imposed last year in May to improve domestic supplies as crops was hit by higher temperature in March last year.
“Wheat production will not be affected due to recent rains, confident of achieving the output target”, he said.
The agriculture ministry last month had estimated a record wheat output of 112.2 MT for the 2022-23 crop year (July-June).