Centre aims seven-fold jump in wheat procurement from Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar this year

Amid the heat of the ongoing Lok Sabha electioneeringthe Centre has announced plans to significantly increase wheat purchase from non-traditional States of Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Bihar and set a target of seven-fold jump in procurement to 50 lakh tonnes in the ongoing 2024-25 marketing year.

Further, even as the ban on outbound shipments of wheat continues, “it will be a dream for us to export now”, Food Secretary Sanjeev Chopra told reporters on April 4.

“UP, Bihar, and Rajasthan have been contributing much less than they could have. We are targeting total wheat procurement of 310 lakh tonne this year. Of which, we are hoping to procure at least 50 lakh tonne from three non-traditional procurement States alone,” he said.

While Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Bihar put together contributed only 6.7 lakh tonnes to the Central pool during the 2023-24 marketing year (April-March), the Union Food Ministry has decided to procure 16% of the total wheat procurement target of 310 lakh tonne set for 2024-25. Wheat procurement at Minimum Support Price (MSP) is normally undertaken by the Centre’s nodal agency Food Corporation of India (FCI) and State agencies. However, cooperatives Nafed and NCCF have also been roped in with a procurement target of five lakh each this year.

Wheat MSP has been fixed at ₹2,275 per quintal for the current year. Since October, the Centre has been working with these three States to increase the procurement level. “Various steps have been taken to address the gaps and it should help boost procurement levels in three States,” he said.

Asserting that 2024 general elections is unlikely to affect wheat procurement operations, the Secretary said the increase in wheat procurement from non-traditional States will help restore allocation of wheat under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana and other welfare schemes.

“The allocation of wheat has been reduced to 184 lakh tonnes annually from the previous 230-240 lakh tonnes under various welfare schemes in view of lower procurement in the last two years,” he added.

Mr. Chopra also said that the Centre has not directed traders to avoid buying wheat from farmers till the government completes procurement. “No such instruction has been given to traders,” he added.

Highlighting steps taken to strengthen wheat procurement in non-traditional States, the Secretary said the procurement window has been advanced/extended to March instead of April 1, set up a dedicated farmer helpline to address procurement-related queries, intensified media publicity of MSP rate, and drying facilities have been provided for early harvested crop.

Besides, the government has advanced farmer registration from January 1 instead of March 1, simplified farmers’ land record verification, including tenant farmers, given flexible procurement targets to agencies.

More importantly, the Secretary said the government has decided to ensure transfer of MSP to bank accounts of farmers within 48 hours, streamlined procurement incidental burden for farmers, smoothened banking-related issues such as Aadhaar integration with bank accounts.

“The government has also opened more procurement centres targeting production hotspots, set up mobile procurement centres, decide to leverage Self Help Groups, Panchayats, Farmer Producer Organisations,” he said.

“That apart, the government has ensured institutional preparedness through working capital to agencies to ensure payment of MSP to farmers within 48 hours,” he added.

The Secretary further mentioned that a Central control room has been set up in the FCI headquarters in Delhi for real-time monitoring of procurement ad coordination among various agencies.

According to the Food Ministry, six lakh tonnes of wheat have already been procured so far this year from six States — Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Bihar. The procurement from traditional States of Punjab and Haryana will begin soon.

On prices of wheat and rice, the Secretary said wheat flour and wheat prices are stable at present after introduction of retail sale of wheat flour at ‘Bharat’ brand. About 7.06 lakh tonne of wheat flour has been sold till now.

“Even retail inflation of rice remained stable at 13% and 14% for the last two months. About 3.1 lakh tonne of FCI rice has been sold under Bharat brand since February,” he added.

Asked if the government will revisit the wheat export ban amid estimates of higher production, the Secretary said, “It’s a dream for us to export now.” The government has banned wheat exports since May 2022 to boost domestic availability and check prices.

The wheat production is estimated to be a record 112 million tonne during 2023-24, compared to last year’s 110 million tonnes as per the Agriculture Ministry.

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