The Ministry of Food has relaxed the rules for wheat collected by Food Corporation of India (FCI) and state government agencies in Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh, an increase of 18% from the existing rule of 6%.
Earlier, the Center had sent two teams to Punjab to assess the extent of the problem of shrunken wheat grains collected by government agencies from farmers. Similar requests have been received from Haryana for relaxation of collection rules for shrinking and broken grains.
A communication from the food ministries of Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh said, “In order to alleviate the hardships of the farmers and to avoid the hassle of selling wheat, the limit of shrinking and broken grains can be relaxed.”
Sources said that food ministry officials visited various mandis in Punjab in late March to take wheat samples to determine the quantity of shredded wheat grains due to heatwave, considered as the time of harvest.
The ministry sent a team to Punjab last month to study the amount of shredded grain. The team said in its report that extreme heat in March and early April increased the percentage of shriveled grains by 10-20% in the state, as against 6% set by the FCI.
Last month, the Punjab government requested the Center to relax the quality norms for wheat procurement as the state’s current crop has seen a decline in procurement beyond the stipulated level of coarse grains.
Government agencies have collected 18 million tonnes (MT) of wheat from farmers as of Friday, mostly in the major growing states of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, down 49% from the same period last year.
Five agencies, including FCI, Markfed and Pungrain, have been tasked with procuring wheat from farmers in Punjab under MSP, which has so far procured 9.55 metric tonnes more than the 13.22 metric tonnes purchased a year ago. The procurement in Haryana, Punjab and Chandigarh has been completed, officials said.
In Haryana, 4.07 MT agencies were procured, while in Madhya Pradesh, 4.14 MT was procured more.
Other wheat-producing states like Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand and Gujarat had negligible grain collection.
Food Secretary Sudhanshu Pandey recently said that lower production, private purchases from exporters to farmers and retention by traders would reduce wheat procurement by 55% year-on-year to 19.5 in the 2022-23 marketing year. MT means that serial purchases by the government on MSPs this year will reach a 13-year low.
The government has revised its wheat production estimates for the 2021-22 crop year (July-June), which was lower than its February estimate of 111.32 metric tonnes, based on reports that the early summer in March adversely affected crop yields. .