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Wheat procurement on target despite lockdown

On the back of a record wheat harvest of more than 1,071 lakh tonnes, procurement of the grain — currently at 342.6 lakh tonnes — has also crossed last year’s levels despite the lockdown, and is well on the way to reaching this year’s target of 407 lakh tonnes.

However, the progress on procurement is uneven, with States such as Punjab and Haryana racing towards their targets despite a late start, while Uttar Pradesh lags behind, having reached less than 40% of its target.

Madhya Pradesh has already crossed its target.

Record production

The late excess rainfall during last year’s monsoon followed by a long winter provided the climatic conditions needed for wheat production to hit a record high for the fourth straight year.

Also read: Ground Zero | Farming under lockdown: Short on labourers, a long harvest

According to the Agriculture Ministry’s third advance estimates, the country’s production amounts to 1,071 lakh tonnes of wheat this year, almost 36 lakh tonnes higher than previous year’s and 110 lakh tonnes higher than the average harvest.

A little over a third of the crop is procured by the Food Corporation of India (FCI) at the minimum support price set by the Centre each year, to go into the central pool for subsidised distribution under the National Food Security Act.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown had led to initial fears that procurement would be disrupted this year. When the lockdown began, harvesting was already under way in western and central States like Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. In the northern States, harvesting was delayed both by the long winter, as well as the challenges caused by the pandemic, including labour shortage and machinery that was yet to return from being rented to farmers further south. In Punjab, where procurement usually begins in the first week of April, it was pushed till April 15, immediately after the first phase of the lockdown. In Haryana, procurement was further delayed until April 20.

Various concerns

Once procurement started, concerns included a shortage of labour at markets, fears of infection spread and a shortage of jute gunny bags due to production being disrupted at West Bengal’s jute mills. The Food Ministry said it had permitted the use of plastic bags as well as used and cleaned jute bags to overcome this hurdle, and it offered specific time slots for farmers, as well as safety equipment for labourers.

Also read: 126 lakh tonnes of food grains supplied to States: FCI

According to FCI data, 342.6 lakh tonnes of wheat have been procured so far in this 2020-21 marketing season, from 10 wheat producing States. This is higher than the 341 lakh tonnes procured last year.

In Madhya Pradesh, procurement has touched 113 lakh tonnes as against a target of 100 lakh tonnes. In Punjab, 93% of procurement is complete, with 126 lakh tonnes purchased against a 135 lakh tonne target, while Haryana has reached almost 75% of its target. In Uttar Pradesh however, only 20 lakh tonnes have been procured, as against a target of 55 lakh tonnes.

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Printable version | May 16, 2021 12:14:00 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/wheat-procurement-on-target-despite-lockdown/article31689751.ece

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