PM-Aasha: Govt procurement of pulses and oilseeds touched only about 5% of target under the scheme

Published: April 19, 2019 2:30:57 AM

While on the face of it this seems to have cast a shadow over the efficacy of the scheme, government officials claim that the renewed government commitment to make market intervention under PM-Aasha itself will help push up market prices and will eventually benefit farmers.

Govt procurement of pulses and oilseeds touched only about 5% of its target under the scheme up to April 11; to continue only till June 30Govt procurement of pulses and oilseeds touched only about 5% of its target under
the scheme up to April 11; to continue only till June 30

By Prabhudatta Mishra

With only two-and-a-half months to go in the current rabi season, the government’s procurement of pulses and oilseeds touched only about 5% of its target under the PM-Aasha scheme up to April 11. Since the Rabi procurement typically continues up to only June 30, the purchases by state-run agencies will most likely fall short of the target this season, even though lifting typically picks up pace after April.

The procurement of the rabi oilseeds and pulses started on February 23.

While on the face of it this seems to have cast a shadow over the efficacy of the scheme, government officials claim that the renewed government commitment to make market intervention under PM-Aasha itself will help push up market prices and will eventually benefit farmers.

But the fact remains that while the scheme was designed to ensure that farmers sell their produce at minimum support prices (MSPs), procurement in this rabi season has benefited only a tiny fraction of them — 1.1 lakh farmers, according to an FE analysis.

Farm cooperative Nafed, the Centre’s main agency to procure pulses and oilseeds, has procured about two lakh tonne of these commodities, comprising gram, sunflower and mustard as of April 11.

The Centre has already sanctioned procurement of 43.89 lakh tonne (valued at `19,786 crore) under the PM-Aasha in the current rabi harvesting season.

Some analysts said fresh procurement seems to have slowed down owing to the absence of a clear-cut policy to dispose of old stocks purchased in earlier seasons and vacate space for fresh crops. Officials said Nafed was still holding as much as 35.6 lakh tonnes of oilseeds and pulses and needed to liquidate these at a fast pace. Also, given the budget constraints, there is an internal policy in the government that procurement must not cross 25% of the crop.

The procurement policy is not helping much as those farmers who are able to sell their entire produce at MSP are unable to do so because the guidelines prescribe a maximum limit of 25% of production can be purchased, experts said.

“We are hopeful that the intervention by Nafed will boost the market price,” said Sanjeev Kumar Chadha, managing director of the cooperative. He said sufficient fund was available to undertake the operation. Over 500 procurement centres are in operation and more will be added when purchases will begin in Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh.

In September-October last year, the Karnataka government had to introduce a quota system by buying up to four quintal of moong from each farmer. Even then, mandi prices of moong were lower by 30-35% from MSP of `6.975 per quintal during the procurement period.

As for old stocks, Nafed has been selling the commodities through e-auction. In the past two months, the government helped Nafed in transferring 10 lakh tonne of pulses from the agency’s stock in the 20-lakh tonne of buffer stock created under the Price Stabilisation Fund (PSF).

India’s rabi oilseeds and pulses production is estimated at 25.27 million tonne in 2018-19 crop year (July-June), down from 26.2 million tonne in the previous year.

Rabi crops are sown during October-December and harvesting season begins from April.

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