FCI has no grain to meet food security scheme need

Wheat procurement declines, buffer stock sufficient for now

FCI has no grain to meet food security scheme need

The mandarins of Krishi Bhavan seem to be panicking even as the UPA government is struggling to ascertain ways of implementing national food security scheme, given their failure to procure targeted wheat quantity from farmers this year.

Different versions are coming out of the government on not filling the foodgrain coffer.

While Food Minister K V Thomas attributed heavy procurement by private players to have scuttled government agencies’ purchase from the open market, there is also a talk of reduction in country’s staple foodgrain production during the rabi reason, which the Ministry of Agriculture failed to anticipate.

The wheat procurement in rabi season (spread from November to April) this year so far touched 25 million tonnes as on June 6, as against last year’s 38 million tonnes.

With the Food Corporation of India (FCI) and other government agencies almost ending their procurement activities, officials in the Food Ministry claim that at the most another 0.5 to 1 lakh tonnes of wheat can be procured in the next few days.

This sharp fall in procurement may not hit the public distribution system, thanks to sufficient buffer stock, but foodgrain stock will not be enough to meet the future demand created by the food security scheme if the situation remains the same.

Interestingly, a month after the FCI started the procurement season from April 1 this year, the Food Ministry cut its wheat procurement target for the season to 33 million tonnes from 44 million tonnes.

 This year procurement was hit severely in Uttar Pradesh where the purchase stood at 6.7 lakh tonnes against the 50 lakh tonnes during the same period last year.
Decline in production

Earlier, the Agriculture Ministry had said that this year too, during rabi reason, sowing of wheat took place in 295.93 lakh hectares similar to that of last year’s. But due to erratic weather it had set the target to produce 86 million tonnes of wheat which was slightly less than last year’s record 93.9 million tonnes.

“Decline in procurement was due to decline in production,”, said an official from the Food Ministry.

Currently, the government has foodgrain stock of 77.7 million tonnes, against the required buffer stock of 21.2 million tonnes. The current stock is enough to implement the food security scheme which seeks to provide legal rights to 67 per cent of the population over a uniform quantity of 5 kg foodgrains at a fixed price of Rs 1-3 per kg through ration shops. But if the trend of decline continued in procurement by government agencies, then it would be a challenge, said the official.

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