The government’s wheat procurement target for the ongoing 2014-15 marketing year is likely to be missed and slip below the last year’s level of 25 million tonnes, Food Secretary Sudhir Kumar said on Tuesday.

State-run Food Corporation of India (FCI) undertakes grain procurement on behalf of the government to ensure that farmers get the minimum support price (MSP).

According to Food Ministry data, FCI and State government-owned agencies have procured 7.5 million tonnes of wheat so far this year, significantly lower than 11.96 million tonnes purchased in the year-ago period.

The wheat marketing year runs from April to March but FCI’s procurement operation gets completed in three months.

“Last year, FCI had procured 25 million tonnes of wheat. As per my own assessment, this year’s overall wheat procurement would be lower than last year,” Mr. Kumar said while addressing a seminar on flour milling industry issues.

However, wheat procurement would be sufficient to meet the demand under the Public Distribution System (PDS) and other government welfare schemes like Midday Meal, he added.

The overall wheat purchase is expected to be much lower than the target of 31 million tonnes set for the current year.

According to Food Ministry officials, the pace of wheat procurement in Punjab is very slow due to delayed harvesting in the state, following recent unseasonal rains.

FCI has been able to procure 9,40,581 tonnes in Punjab as on today in the current marketing year, as against 4.3 million tonnes in the same period last year, says official data.

Wheat growers at several areas in Punjab have even complained of non-procurement of crop by procurement agencies, citing higher moisture content.

In Haryana, wheat procurement is down marginally at 3.2 million tonnes as against 3.7 million tonnes, while procurement in Madhya Pradesh is also lower at 3.17 million tonnes as against 3.6 million tonnes in the review period.

Procurement in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and other growing states is trailing behind last year’s level.

Wheat production in India, the world’s second biggest grower, is pegged at 95.6 million tonnes for this year as against 93.51 million tonnes in the year-ago period.

Highlighting the importance of fortified wheat flour (enriched flour) to address malnutrition in the country, Food Secretary Sudhir Kumar said the flour milling industry should take proactive steps to promote the product in the country.

“About 30 per cent of world flour is fortified. It is very less in our country. There is nutrition deficiency not only in poor section but also among affluent class. There is a need to create awareness about this product.

“Fortification does not cost much. Instead of depending on government to support such products, the industry should come forward and take proactive steps to create a market for fortified products,” Mr. Kumar said.

On flour milling industry’s suggestion for setting up a National Development Council to promote and address the concerns regarding wheat and its products in the country, Mr. Kumar said, “A separate council is required and this could be set up under the Food Processing Ministry. I will discuss this proposal with the concerned Secretary.”

Speaking at the seminar, Food Processing Ministry Additional Secretary, Jagdish Prasad Meena, said processing of products from wheat is very less in the country, though the grain is available in abundance.

Many multinational companies are launching new products in India to meet the changing food preference of consumers.

Local players can also tap this market by integrating their milling industry with downstream processing units, he said.

The seminar was organised by the National Productivity Council to address productivity issues and future needs of flour milling industry in India.

More In: Economy | Business