Unseasonal rains: Govt may miss this year’s 30-mt wheat procurement target
Government’s wheat procurement this year may fall short of the initial target of 30 million tonnes (MT) due to crop damage following a recent spell of unseasonal rains and hailstorms.
Wheat procurement is underway. About 5.93 MT has been procured so far in the ongoing 2015-16 marketing year (April-March). “Unseasonal rains, strong winds and in certain areas hailstorms occurred in all major wheat producing states like Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Uttarkhand.
Due to such rains, procurement may be lower than the initial estimate of 30 MT,” Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said in a written reply to the Lok Sabha. However, he said that relaxation in wheat quality norms may mitigate impact on procurement. After assessing the quality of wheat samples, Paswan said that the Centre has relaxed the quality specification of wheat procurement in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Chandigarh. Of the total target of 30 MT set for this year, Punjab’s share has been fixed at 12 MT, Haryana at 7 MT, Madhya Pradesh at 6 MT and Uttar Pradesh at 3 MT. Last year, the government had procured 28 MT of wheat from farmers. Food Corporation of India (FCI) and state agencies procure wheat at the support price.
In a separate reply, Paswan said that the Centre has a food grain stock of 41 MT, which is double the buffer norm as on April 1. “There will no shortage of food grains to meet the demand against the allotment of 53.41 MT of food grains for public distribution system/ food security act and other welfare schemes in 2015-16,” Paswan said.
In 2014-15, about 61.39 MT of food grains was kept aside to meet the requirement of the PDS and other welfare schemes, while off take was 55.23 MT. In another reply, Paswan said the government is not considering any proposal to export wheat during current year. During the 2012-14 period, the government had exported nearly 5.8 million tonnes of wheat from the central pool. Wheat production is likely to fall by 4-5 per cent from the initial estimates of 95.76 MT in 2014-15 crop year (July-June) due to unseasonal rains.
Arrears to sugarcane farmers touch `21K cr
The arrears to be paid to sugarcane farmers stand at Rs 21,000 crore and all efforts are being made to address the problems, the government said on Tuesday. Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan told the Lok Sabha that the government would take “appropriate decision at appropriate time” but said it was not currently considering any proposal to providw interest-free working capital loan to sugarcane growers. Noting that “whatever needs to be done the government is doing”, Paswan said the arrears to sugarcane farmers now stands at Rs 21,000 crore. Paswan, who is the Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, said the matter has been taken up at the highest level and the government is making efforts to address the problems. “The central government has received proposals and suggestions from various state governments including Maharashtra, which include financial assistance such as continuance of incentive for raw sugar export, creation of strategic buffer stock of sugar, interest free working capital loan,” Paswan said during Question Hour. The Minister said the government has already extended raw sugar incentive scheme for providing incentive at the rate of Rs 4,000 per metric tonne upto 14 lakh metric tonne for the current sugar season 2014-15.