By Puja Das
Food Corporation of India (FCI) officially wrapped up wheat procurement on Friday with 26.1 million tonnes (mt). The agency that procures foodgrains on behalf of the food and public distribution ministry had set an estimated wheat procurement target at 34.5 mt for 2023-24 (October-March) rabi marketing season.
On 8 June, Mint first reported FCI will unlikely be able to procure wheat beyond 26 mt due to remunerative prices offered by private traders and millers attracting farmers to see their produce to them instead of government agencies.
Wheat procurement in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh came to an end by May end.
Prices were high in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar since the beginning of the year, which did not allow the government to procure the crop aggressively. The price rise is due to lower production of wheat in the country and farmers holding their produce in anticipation of remunerative prices like last year.
The agriculture ministry estimated nearly 113 mt of wheat production in 2022-23 (July-June) crop year as against 107 mt last year. However, the industry sees 10% lower than the government’s estimate amid a jump in local prices in the past two months.
Fair average quality or FAQ wheat prices in key wholesale markets of Indore, Jaipur, Kanpur and Delhi were being traded at ₹2,050-2,270 a quintal in May, which had risen to ₹2,351-2,575 per quintal on 12 June, according to the agriculture ministry’s agmarknet portal. The government set wheat minimum support price in 2023-24 rabi marketing year at ₹2,125 per quintal.
All-India average retail prices have fallen to ₹29.2 a kg on Friday as compared to ₹29.16 per kg on 12 June, when the government had imposed a stock limit on wheat holding capacity.
The Centre imposed stock limits on wheat till March 31 next year to arrest the rising prices of the grain. This came despite the government predicting a record wheat production in the Third Advance Estimate. While announcing the stock limit, Union food secretary Sanjeev Chopra on 2 June said the price of the cereal had risen 8.13% at the mandi level in the last one month, which may reflect in the domestic wholesale and retail prices.
To cool off prices and augment domestic availability, the department also decided to offload 1.5 mt wheat under open market sales operations (OMSS).
The food and public distribution is examining all intervention tools, including import if prices of wheat do not come down significantly.
This article has been republished from The Mint