Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday chaired a meeting of concerned officials for reviewing various aspects of wheat supply, stock and exports.
Prime Minister Modi asked concern officials to ensure quality norms for exports of foodgrains and other agricultural products from the country.
“In the light of increasing demand for agricultural products of India, the Prime Minister directed that all steps be taken to ensure quality norms and standards so that India evolves into an assured source of food grain and other agricultural products,” an official statement said.
Prime minister was briefed regarding the impact of high temperatures in March-April, 2022 which had adversely impacted wheat production.
This high-level meeting comes after the government revised the estimate of wheat production in the 2021-22 crop year (July-June) to 105 million tonne (MT), down from its February projection of 111.32 MT, based on reports that the early onset of summer in March has adversely impacted crop yield. India’s wheat production was a record 109.59 MT in 2020-21 crop year.
Review meeting by Prime Minister was attended by Principal Secretary to PM, Advisors, cabinet secretary, secretaries of Department of Food and Public Distribution System and Agriculture. The status of procurement and export of wheat were reviewed.
Modi also asked officials to ensure maximum help to farmers. Officials briefed the Prime Minister about the prevailing market rates which are beneficial to farmers.
Food secretary Sudhanshu Pandey on Tuesday had stated that the lower output, coupled with private purchase from the farmers by exporters and traders holding on to the stocks would lead to a 55% year-on-year decline in wheat procurement in the 2022-23 marketing year to 19.5 MT by the government agencies.
This means the purchases of the cereal by the government at minimum support prices (MSP) would hit a 13-year low this year.
In 2010-11, wheat procurement was 22.5 MT and in 2016-17, it was 22.96 MT. MSP purchases of wheat stood around 17 MT as on Wednesday, down 42% from the year-ago level.
On the lower volume of wheat procurement, the food ministry has cited factors such as farmers in Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat selling to traders and exporters at around Rs 2,100-2,400 a quintal against the MSP of Rs 2,015 a quintal, and they are also holding some quantities, expecting higher prices of wheat after some months.
While India is aiming at exporting more than 10 MT of wheat in 2022-23, given the lower level of procurement and stocks held with FCI, the government is likely to regulate exports to avoid domestic supply constraints.
Official sources had told FE that they are keeping a close watch on wheat exports and will take a call on if the exports need to be curbed later this month. “There is no case for controlling exports of wheat at present,” sources said.
Meanwhile, the government on Tuesday had revised grain allocation under Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) during May-September, 2022, because of a sharp fall in wheat stocks held with Food Corporation of India (FCI).
As per the revised guideline, during the remaining five months of phase VI of PMGKAY, FCI will allocate 3.5 million tonne (MT) of wheat to states while as per the earlier communication FCI was to supply 9 MT of grain.
Launched in 2020 as part of COVID19 relief measure, 5 kg of grain under PMGKAY are provided free each month besides highly subsidized foodgrain to more than 81 beneficiaries under National Food Security Act.
This move to allocate more rice than wheat came after wheat stock held with FCI as of May 1 dropped to a five-year low of 31 MT on May 1.