The Punjab government has urged the Centre to relax the quality norms for wheat procurement as a higher than prescribed level of shrivelled grains in the state’s current crop has led to a fall in purchases.
A food ministry team recently visited mandis in Punjab to assess the issue of shrivelled wheat grain caused by the heat wave in March, considered as the ripening time for the crop. Shrivelled wheat results in losses in yield and nutritional value.
According to a mandi official here, extreme heat in March and early April has increased shrivelled grain percentage to 10-20% in Punjab, as against 6% prescribed by the Food Corporation of India (FCI).
Sources told FE that FCI has favoured similar relaxations for procurement in Haryana. The central government is expected to take a call shortly.
In the absence official communication regarding changes in specifications, wheat is being purchased from farmers in Punjab under the relaxed guidelines, and the grain would not be moved to FCI godowns in other states.
Officials said unusually high temperature over the last two weeks has caused grain to shrivel in Punjab, where agencies have set a procurement target of 13.2 million tonne (MT) in the ongoing rabi marketing session (April-June) for 2022-23, which is unlikely to be achieved because of the yield losses.
Government agencies have procured more than 11.89 MT of wheat from farmers, mostly in key growing states of Punjab, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh, till Thursday — a decline of more than 30% compared to the same period in the previous year. Officials said procurement in Haryana and Punjab is expected to be completed in the next couple of weeks.
Five agencies, including FCI, Markfed and Pungrain, have been entrusted with the wheat procurement at the minimum support price (MSP) from farmers in Punjab, where more than 6.17 MT has been purchased so far. In Haryana, 3.33 MT has been procured by agencies. while in Madhya Pradesh, more than 2.32 MT has been purchased.
In other wheat-growing states like Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand and Gujarat, procurement is yet to pick up pace.
Wheat procurement is being keenly watched this time as a surge in exports. mostly from Madhya Pradesh. has pushed up mandi prices above the MSP of Rs 2,015 per quintal.
Food ministry officials have said the target of 44 MT for procurement from farmers across all wheat-growing states will be reduced by more than 10 MT due to a possible surge in exports and high mandi prices. India is aiming at exporting 10 MT of wheat in 2022-23.
The official procurement season is from April-June, but a bulk of the wheat crop arrives in the mandis during the first six weeks.
Food ministry officials have indicated that a drop in wheat procurement volume is unlikely to impact the grain allocation to the public distribution system under the National Food Security Act as FCI has more than 19 MT of wheat as of April 1, against the buffer norm of 7 MT. The government distributes 5 kg of rice or wheat to beneficiaries at Rs 3 and Rs 2 per kg, respectively.