The food, civil supplies and consumer affairs ministry has barred the Food Corporation of India (FCI) to accept paddy and rice packed in HDPE/PP or synthetic bags while allowing the states to pack their procurement in synthetic bags. Sixteen states have a targeted rice procurement of 517.56 lakh tonne (LT) during the current khariff marketing season (KMS).
The 16 states have set their targets to procure between October and March with Chhattisgarh targeting the highest at 61.65 LT followed by Uttar Pradesh at 46.9 LT and Andhra Pradesh 42 LT.
The ministry, in a letter (seen by FE) to 15 states — Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Haryana, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and West Bengal — said although the Centre has granted them permission to pack rice and paddy in HDPE/PP bags, FCI would neither accept rice nor paddy in synthetic bags as there may be deterioration in quality. The Centre said the permission was given at the states’ request in the wake of shortage of jute bags.
The ministry has made clear that it “will not be in any way responsible for the same/ any other issue arising out of this permission”. It has asked the states to utilise the custom milled rice (CMR), packed in synthetic bags, in the public distribution system (PDS) within their territory on a priority basis. However, synthetic bags will have to be procured from the government e-Marketplace (GeM) portal.
While the 15 states have estimated that jute bags equivalent to 25.73 lakh bales (each bale makes 500 bags) will be required to procure the yields during the KMS-2022, the Centre has calculated the requirement at 21.73 lakh bales for the period. The ministry’s letter to the states said it has been “noted that some States have been projecting exaggerated requirement, which may lead to excess placement of indent”. This would also lead to funds getting “stuck, on subsequent downward revision in Supply plan, further depriving the needy states of packaging material”.
Although so far no states have indented for synthetic bags for the KMS-2022, the Centre has allotted 18.40 lakh bales equivalent of bags for packaging, which translates into 92 crore bags. Accordingly, 90 crore bags have been allotted to jute and the remaining to synthetic.
However, a section of jute millers fear the allotment to HDPE/PP will prompt the entire wheat packaging to be in synthetic bags leading to downsizing of the jute industry, dependent on the mandatory reservation of food grains under the JPM Act 1987, by 25%. This will trigger a loss of 50,000 direct employment. The industry has the capacity to supply 34 lakh bales equivalent of jute bags in KMS and RMS (Rabi Marketing Season), but the government is building up a case for diluting wheat from the ambit of mandatory protection since there has been a gap in supplies by 11 lakh bales equivalent of jute bags in the last KMS and RMS seasons due to the Covid-induced pandemic, an IJMA official on the condition of anonymity said.