Govt's wheat purchases set to halve; no plans to curb exports: Food secretary

New export markets such as Egypt, Turkey and some European Union countries are opening for Indian wheat.

May 04, 2022 05:29 pm | Updated 05:29 pm IST - New Delhi

A group of women harvesting the rabi crop of wheat in a field on the outskirts of Lucknow in April 2022. File

A group of women harvesting the rabi crop of wheat in a field on the outskirts of Lucknow in April 2022. File | Photo Credit: SANDEEP SAXENA

The Centre's wheat procurement is set to decline by more than half to 19.5 million tonnes in the the current rabi marketing year amid higher exports and likely fall in output, food secretary Sudhanshu Pandey said on Wednesday, and asserted there won't be any concern for meeting the domestic demand under the Public Distribution System.

The secretary also ruled out a possibility of imposing any curbs on wheat exports as farmers are getting higher than the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for their produce.

Addressing a press conference here, Mr. Pandey said: "We don't see a case for any control on exports. ....Wheat exports are on and in fact the government is facilitating the traders," he said.

New export markets such as Egypt, Turkey and some European Union countries are opening for Indian wheat. Agri-export promotion body APEDA is facilitating the shipments, he said.

Mr. Pandey said that private traders have contracted for export of 4 million tonnes for the current quarter, and 1 million tonnes have been shipped already.

Indian traders have a window for exports till June when the wheat crop from Argentina will arrive, thereby increasing the global availability and reducing pressure on India, he added.

Wheat exports stood at a record 7 million tonnes in 2021-22 fiscal.

Amid rise in demand for wheat for export, the secretary said farmers are selling their produce to private players at more than the MSP. This has resulted in lower procurement by the government agencies.

The fall in government procurement, he asserted, goes in "favour of farmers" as they are getting higher than the MSP offered by the government agencies.

However, about overall foodgrain management situation, the Secretary said, "We are still in surplus situation." "...The government's wheat procurement has reduced. But the availability and procurement of rice is sufficient to meet the demand under the National Food Security Act," he added.

Mr. Pandey said that the government's wheat procurement has touched 17.5 million tonnes so far, and total purchase is likely to reach 19.5 million tonnes in the 2022-23 marketing year, much lower than the last year, he added.

Another 2 million tonnes of wheat is expected to be procured from Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, he said.

Earlier the government had fixed the wheat procurement target at 44.4 million tonnes for the 2022-23 marketing year as against an all-time high of 433.44 lakh tonnes in the previous marketing year.

The rabi marketing season runs from April to March but the bulk procurement ends by June.

Mr. Pandey attributed the fall in wheat procurement to several factors, including higher market prices of wheat in some states compared to the MSP, stocks being held by farmers and traders in anticipation of further price rise and lower than estimated production in some states.

The agriculture ministry has revised downwards the estimate for wheat production by 5.7% to 105 million tonnes in the 2021-22 crop year ending June, from the earlier projection of 111.32 million tonnes, as the crop productivity has been affected due to the early onset of summer, he said.

India's wheat production stood at 109.59 million tonnes in the 2020-21 crop year (July-June).

The lowering of estimates has been attributed to "early summer" that has affected the crop yields in states, especially Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, he added.

State-owned Food Corporation of India (FCI) and other agencies undertake procurement at a minimum support price to meet the requirement under the Public Distribution System (PDS) and other welfare schemes.

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