The Food Secretary said FCI and State agencies will be operating more than 19,000 centers across the country during ongoing Rabi season

Categorically reflecting the government’s pro-farmers’ stand, as many as 64.79-LMT wheat has been procured at MSP and payments to this regard have been directly credited into the accounts of 6, 60,593 farmers from 11 states across the country.

In Punjab, where farmers have not yet relented to ant-farm laws demand, procurement under MSP is in full swing and as on April 14, total 5.57-LMT wheat has arrived in Mandis. This was informed to the media on Thursday by Secretary, Department of Food and Public Distribution Shudhanshu Pandey while talking about the status of wheat procurement in Rabi Marketing Season (RMS) 2021-22.

He said the Government of India is committed to purchase of the wheat at MSP and that the Rabi season 2021-22 has already started in the states of MP and Rajasthan from March 15 2021, in Haryana and Delhi from April 1, 2021, in Punjab from April 10 and in Bihar, it will commence from April 20, 2021.

The Food Secretary said FCI and State agencies will be operating more than 19,000 centers across the country during ongoing RMS 2021-22.

He briefed the media that during the current RMS (2021-22), so far, Government has procured 64.7 LMT of wheat worth Rs. 12,800 Crore at MSP of Rs. 1,975 per quintal, against an estimated target of 427 LMT this year.

In comparison, last year (2020), record procurement was at 389 LMT but on the same date i.e. till April14, it was just about 60 tonnes, whereas 12.81 LMT was procured during the corresponding period in the RMS 2019-20.

While answering questions, he said that from the current RMS 2021-22 season onwards, transfer of MSP will take place through DBT mode across India.

Briefing about the wheat procurement in Punjab, he informed that 10.6 LMT has been procured as on April 14, 2021 against zero (0) LMT during 2020-21 and 0.15 LMT during the corresponding period of 2019-20. Procurement in Punjab is in full swing and on April14, 2021, there was arrival of 5.57 LMT wheat in Mandis which is likely to speed up in the coming days.

He further maintained that there is no stakeholder interest clash or encroachment in Punjab. Arhtiyas are receiving their commission separately through the e-mode of payment. Earlier, the MSP was going to farmers via Arhtiya and now it is being directly transferred to farmers online.

On the question of Centre’s agreeability on Delhi Government’s doorstep delivery of ration, he said it was clearly stated that the Government of India’s thinking is clear in this regard. It follows the law and according to law, ration should not be supplied at any increased rate.

Further to a question about storage conditions of godowns, he said it is an incorrect perception that due to the poor condition of godowns, foodgrain stock gets ruined.

In 2019 & 2020, damage was0.006% and 0.004% of the total storage. He said to improve the storage infrastructure in India & increase storage capacity by 100 LMT, “we are launching a storage modernisation plan. By 2024-25, we will store our stocks in modern silos and phase out conventional godowns (Silos established in Ahmedabad, pilot project on rice silos in Buxar).

On a question of proposals for maize procurement in Bihar, the Secretary said that the existing policy of Government of India is to ask for quotes from states and accordingly MSP is announced. So, the State Governments can procure the required quantity of maize according to their needs. Additionally, as a result of Govt. of India permitting ethanol production, Bihar announced a policy on this which will increase demand for maize crop in the state.

Further to a question on price rise of oilseeds, he said price rise is taking place due to several international factors - damaged international oilseeds owing to which Latin American countries saw less production of Soyabean etc. Also, El-Nino increased pressure on domestic oilseed production. However, the farmers also benefited as prices of soybean, castor seed oil etc are above MSP. In the long term, increased domestic production is the best way to rein in prices and Govt. of India is working towards this direction.