Though rabi rice procurement continues till the end of September, the maximum procurement happens by July 15 before monsoon covers the entire country.
The Centre is set to procure a record 50-51 million tonne (MT) of rice in 2019-20 (October-September), which is 43% of the production estimate, as farmers are eager to sell paddy to government agencies for getting the minimum support price, with the lockdown reducing chances of sales through mandis.
States like Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, major producers of the grain, are planning to buy the entire rice crop in their states. The Food Corporation of India (FCI) has already bought 39.4 million tonne (MT) of rice as on March 31 during 2019-20 season. Due to the impact of corona, officials expect 10-11 MT rabi rice to be purchased, taking the total to about 50 MT this year.
During the last procurement season, the FCI had purchased 44.4 MT of rice, which was the highest for any year till then. The current paddy MSP is Rs 1,815/quintal for the common variety and Rs 1,835/quintal for grade A. The FCI, which has been managing the central pool stocks of rice and wheat, had record 73.85 MT of food grain – 49.15 MT of rice and 24.7 MT of wheat – as on April 1, which is three-and-a-half times the buffer norms (including strategic reserves) of 21.04 MT.
Since the FCI has a total storage capacity (own and hired) of 75.85 MT? 62.64 MT under covered godowns and 13.2 MT covered and plinth (CAP) for the central pool, it has not lifted 25.24 MT of unmilled paddy lying with millers to create space for 16.91 MT (rice equivalent of unmilled paddy). However, this space is highly insufficient considering it has kept a target to buy 52 MT of grains – 40.7 MT wheat and 11.3 MT rabi-grown rice from April 1 to July 15.
Though rabi rice procurement continues till the end of September, the maximum procurement happens by July 15 before monsoon covers the entire country. “The government has allocated 12 MT of rice and wheat under the corona package while additional 15 MT can be distributed under regular NFSA quota by June-end. Only option left for the government is to allow the paddy to remain with millers and create additional storage space in open,” said a government official.
The CAP storage is used only for wheat (not paddy) – the grain is kept in open field on plinth and covered with polythene sheets. “The state agencies of Punjab and Haryana are well experienced in keeping wheat in CAP storage. Scientifically-built CAPs are quite secure, but this year, there may be a need to store some wheat in unscientific CAPs. So, there might be a risk of damage at some low lying locations, if there were heavy rains,” said former agriculture secretary Siraj Hussain.
In 2008, the government had launched the Private Entrepreneurs Guarantee scheme under which it was decided to add 15 MT capacity. This scheme was highly successful and 13.4 MT has already been added. On the other hand, construction of steel silos has not progressed at the desired pace. About 4,50,000 tonne silo capacity has been built since 2015, against a target of 10 MT.
Due to the decision to distribute additional food grain to all ration card holders free of costs during April-July, the agency has been evacuating over 1 lakh tonne of rice on a daily basis from Punjab to consuming states. Also, rice from Telangana is being sent to West Bengal and other states in eastern part to create space for fresh purchase.