Centre tough on delay in rice supply to central pool

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New Delhi | Published: April 9, 2015 2:25:13 AM

Concerned that the Food Corporation of India's actual stocks at times happen to be up to a quarter less than on record owing to the huge...

Concerned that the Food Corporation of India’s actual stocks at times happen to be up to a quarter less than on record owing to the huge delays in supply of committed rice quantities to the central pool by some states, the Centre is acting tough.

In the case of single-crop (kharif) states, the rice has to reach FCI storage centres by June 30 in any particular crop year and the states that grow paddy for  two seasons in a year, the entire supply committed to the central pool must be made by September 30, the food ministry wrote to the states recently. If states fail this new norm, the FCI will then write off the unrealised stocks at their expense.

In recent years which saw FCI grain stocks rising, thanks to a conscious government decision to ramp up the same, the issue of unrealised Custom Milled Rice (CMR) from states to central grain pool has also come to the fore. States such as Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Bihar, which follow decentralised procurement scheme, often do not supply the entire quantity of rice  meant for the central pool in time and delay the transfers by even more than one year, causing the Centre to doubt if the states had indeed procured paddy to the extent claimed.

In practice, according to sources, what caused the delay is the inability of states to get the rice from millers who were given the paddy for milling. The millers, it is presumed, must have diverted the rice to the open market or even exported it.

If the Centre refuses to lift rice not supplied in time, the states will have to find other ways to dispose the cereal of, as the CMR supplies are made only after meeting the state’s own PDS requirements.

Chhattisgarh and Odisha are among states that grow paddy twice a year — both kharif and rabi — and they will now have to supply excess CMR to the central pool by September 30 in a given year.

“There are delays in getting CMR rice into central pool as millers often divert the rice derived from paddy supplied by state government-owned agencies to open market or exports,” a food ministry official said. He said that in case of special circumstances, “states will be allowed some leeway from the new norms”,  but added that these will be exceptions.”The rational behind fixing time frame for getting CMR to central pool is to ensure there are actual grain stocks with us, not phantom stocks,” the official said.

Of course, FCI is holding much higher amount of wheat and rice than required for its PDS operations. Around 43 million tonne of grains was stocked with the FCI as on March 1, while April 1 buffer norm was less than half of that at 21 million tonne.

Meanwhile, Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik has urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi not to delete CMR stocks received after the cut off date from central pool. Such a decision by the Centre would compel Odisha to opt out of the decentralised procurement operations altogether, Patnaik said. He said the procurement of paddy or rice has increased in Odisha after adoption of the  scheme since 2003-04.

Chhattisgarh was allowed to supply CMR to FCI up to the end of February 2015 for the paddy which was procured in 2012-13 season (October-September).

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