Foodgrain stock will last till next March, says FCI chief

Calling it excess stock will be an exaggeration, he says

Updated - April 25, 2020 12:31 pm IST

Published - April 24, 2020 11:04 pm IST - CHENNAI

D.V. Prasad

D.V. Prasad

The stock of foodgrains available with the Food Corporation of India is “comfortable” to manage the situation till March next year, but it would be an exaggeration to hold that the stock is “far in excess” of the buffer stock requirement, which should include additional allocation, according to D.V. Prasad, Chairman and Managing Director of the FCI.

Responding to the demand being made by food security activists that the Central government, with “enormous excess stock”, release more foodgrains to States free of cost or at a nominal price over and above the existing allocations, Mr. Prasad told The Hindu on Thursday that the buffer stock norms were fixed based on the requirement of wheat or rice at 5 kg a person for 80 crore beneficiaries of the National Food Security Act (NFSA), which was in line with the requirements of the law.

Additional allocation

“The norms have been determined, considering normal situations and they essentially provide for any production shortfalls. However, a pandemic, as we are witnessing today, is a different situation and it may demand a revision of the existing norms in view of the additional allocation of foodgrains at 5 kg a person, as being done under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Ann Yojana (PMGKAY) for three months (April to June this year in the light of the coronavirus ( COVID-19 ). In essence, the buffer norms now need to take into account the additional allocation too,” he pointed out.

State-wise tracker for COVID-19 cases, deaths and testing, and a map of confirmed cases in India

As on date, the total stock is 564 lakh tonnes, of which rice accounts for 284 lakh tonnes and wheat, 280 lakh tonnes. In the remaining period of April, May and June, it is expected that there will be an outflow of 200 lakh tonnes for the regular NFSA scheme, 5 kg free for each NFSA beneficiaries given under PMGKAY and the new schemes introduced for non-NFSA cardholders and NGOs.

As per the norms fixed in 2015, the buffer stock, as maintained on April 1, was around 210 lakh tonnes, a figure which would change on the first day of July, October and January.

Kharif procurement

“As the Kharif procurement season for rice is approaching an end and wheat procurement has just started, the stock position at our warehouses will naturally be high on July 1. Wheat being once a year crop, it has to be stocked from July for almost a year to meet the year-long demand by the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) till the arrival of the next crop. Similarly, we will have to wait at least for six months to start receiving the inflow of Kharif rice. Given our country’s pattern, we have to procure wheat in about three months for the entire year and rice over six to eight months. So, one should not take a look only at the overall figure, without taking into account the additional allocations due to COVID-19,” Mr. Prasad said.

Good response

Asked about the status of the scheme of providing foodgrains to those not covered under the NFSA (such as non-priority household cards), Mr. Prasad said the response had been “good.” So, far, 27,000 tonnes of rice and 18,000 tonnes of wheat had been lifted by the States.

Maharashtra had received 16,326 tonnes of wheat (at a rate of ₹ 21 per kg) and 14,915 tonnes of rice (at ₹ 22 per kg).

‘It’s Centre’s call’

Among the southern States which had taken only rice, Kerala had obtained 1,967 tonnes of rice and Karnataka 9,609 tonnes.

To a question whether rice would be given for these cardholders free of cost, as demanded by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami, the official responded that “it is a policy decision [to be taken by the Union government]”.

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