Increase paddy sowing, Centre asks States

International demand for both rice and wheat has increased, says Goyal

July 05, 2022 08:29 pm | Updated 08:33 pm IST - New Delhi:

Farm workers preparing the fields for paddy cultivation at Ibrahimpatnam, on the outskirts of Vijayawada. File.

Farm workers preparing the fields for paddy cultivation at Ibrahimpatnam, on the outskirts of Vijayawada. File. | Photo Credit: Raju V.

The Centre has asked the States to increase the sowing of paddy in the wake of reports that there is a decrease in its sowing. At a conference of State Food Ministers on food and nutrition security of India held here on Tuesday, Union Minister of Food and Public Distribution Piyush Goyal said the international demand for both rice and wheat has increased and asked the States to increase the sowing of paddy in this kharif season.

The Centre’s data says that paddy has been sown on 43.45 lakh hectares till July 1, which is 27.05% less than last year’s sowing of 59.56 lakh hectares during the same period of 2021. “We request the States to increase the sowing of rice,” Mr. Goyal said. He added that when wheat sowing begins in October during the rabi season, the States should increase the sowing as wheat’s demand has increased globally.

Meanwhile, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat governments urged the State not to replace wheat with rice. Gujarat Food Minister Nareshbhai Patel and Uttar Pradesh’s Minister of State for Food & Civil Supplies Satish Chandra Sharma urged the Centre to reconsider the decision to replace wheat with rice. “In areas like Saurashtra, people prefer wheat to rice. The Centre has assured us they will consider replacing rice with ragi and other millets,” Mr. Patel told The Hindu. Kerala Food Minister G.R. Anil said the State had requested increased rice allocation.

The meeting also had discussions on nutritional safety, particularly on fortified rice. Mr. Anil said though Kerala is ready to distribute fortified rice through its public distribution outlets, the State prefers indigenous varieties of rice which naturally contain nutrients. “We have asked the government to consider such varieties of rice than going for fortified rice,” he added.

Mr. Goyal pulled up States for not submitting its food Bills to the Centre. He said some States have submitted Bills since 2004 and said all Bills must be cleared by August 15. States such as Bihar, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh cited delays in audit clearance. Mr. Goyal offered them assistance in taking up the matter with the Comptroller and Auditor General. He also criticised States such as Telangana, West Bengal and Rajasthan who did not send ministers for the conference.

Meanwhile, Odisha secured the first rank for the implementation of the National Food Security Act (NFSA). Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh stood second and third in the index prepared by the Centre, which was released by Mr. Goyal during the conference. Among the special category States, Tripura secured the first rank. Himachal Pradesh and Sikkim stood at the second and third positions.

Mr. Goyal said the ranking will lead to healthy competition among States under the NFSA. He said the Centre will launch a similar ranking for procurement too. “The Index denotes only the efficiency of TPDS operations, it does not reflect the level of hunger, if any or malnutrition, or both, in a particular State or Union Territory,” the index report said. The findings also showed that most States fared well in digitisation, Aadhaar seeding, and e-POS installation. “However, States and Union Territories can improve their performance in a few areas. Exercises such as conducting and documenting social audits thoroughly and operationalising functions of State food commissions across States and Union Territories will further bolster the true spirit of the Act,” the report added.

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