Amid concerns over a possible drop in this year’s wheat crop, the government has fixed the procurement target at 320 lakh tonnes for 2018-19 marketing season (April-March), higher than the actual purchase of about 308 lakh tonnes in 2017-18. The target for next season, however, is 10 lakh tonnes lower than that for the current year as states like Madhya Pradesh said production could be lower than last year. But officials said the targeted procurement is adequate to distribute the grains for the entire year.
Of the total wheat procurement target for 2018-19, Punjab aims to buy the most at 119 lakh tonnes, then Haryana at 74 lakh tonnes, Madhya Pradesh 67 lakh tonnes, Uttar Pradesh 40 lakh tonnes, Rajasthan 16 lakh tonnes, Bihar 2 lakh tonnes and Uttarakhand 1 lakh tonnes.
Traders said the announcement of Rs 200 a quintal bonus above the minimum support price (MSP) by Madhya Pradesh may see farmers of adjoining states like Rajasthan, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh selling their wheat in Madhya Pradesh.
Asked about the lower procurement target, a government official said Food Corporation of India has enough wheat and excess purchase from the market may create shortage.
However, the government will ensure that all the wheat coming to its purchase centres are bought so that farmers get the MSP. The government has fixed the MSP at Rs 1,735 a quintal for the 2018-19 season and its procurement will begin from April 1 unless states request for early purchase.
The FCI had 195.62 lakh tonnes of wheat in its reserve as of January 1 this year as against 137.47 lakh tonnes in the year-ago period. As per the buffer norm, including strategic reserve, the agency should have 138 lakh tonnes of wheat as on January 1 every year.
A food ministry statement said the target was fixed at a meeting of state food secretaries on Thursday to discuss procurement arrangements. Although wheat marketing year runs through April to March, the procurement is completed in first three months.
The procurement of food grains is highly critical as the government has to run the public distribution system for the entire year and any major shortfall in the purchases may lead to official import by the country. In the case of rice, the government has targets buying 55 lakh tonnes (grown in rabi season of 2017-18 crop year), which is in addition to 375 lakh tonnes target of kharif rice. The Centre has already procured 289.7 lakh tonnes of rice as of February 9 this year. The rice procurement season runs from October to September.