The government has set a target of procuring 35.7 million tonnes of wheat this year amid indications of record production, said a senior food ministry official.
The ministry had held an internal meeting on wheat procurement on Tuesday, the official told ET on condition of anonymity.
The procurement for this season will start from March 15 in Madhya Pradesh. However, in Punjab and Haryana, which contribute more than 50 per cent to the central pool, the purchase will start from April 1.
“Last year, the government procured 35.5 million tonnes, as against the target of 32 million tonnes. The highest procurement was in 2012-13, when it purchased 38.1 million tonnes,” the official said.
As for rice, the government has already purchased more than 35 million tonnes from over 7.6 million farmers in 2018-19, against the target of 37.5 million tonnes.
“The procurement is still on,” the official said. “With elections round the corner and aggressive purchasing by states such as Chhattisgarh, Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, the purchase may cross 40 million tonnes.”
According to the Food Corporation of India, the agency that buys grain for the central pool for public distribution and other welfare schemes, the stock of rice and wheat together has already crossed 47.72 million tonnes – the highest in February since 2013, when the stocks had touched 66.28 million tonnes.
Food minister Ram Vilas Paswan said the stock will swell further since a bumper crop is likely. “We have no shortage of food grain,” he said. “This year, wheat production is likely to cross 100 million tonnes. Our public distribution system is working well. In fact, we are now worried about storage.”
Food secretary Ravi Kant said storage may pose some problem at the peak of procurement. “As of now, we are comfortable with storage capacity,” he told ET. “But in view of record wheat output, we are making arrangements for proper storage. We are focusing on creating storage facilities at consumption centres like Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Gujarat rather than at producing centres like Punjab and Haryana, which are already saturated.”