Relief for farmers: Center eases shriveled wheat grain standards for Punjab and Haryana
The Central Ministry of Food and Public Distribution has allowed Punjab and Haryana to relax sourcing standards for shriveled and broken wheat kernels, allowing them up to 18% from the existing 6%, without any reduction in value.
Due to the sudden increase in temperature in March, when the wheat crop was in the ripening phase, the grain quality suffered so much that the percentage of shriveled grain in the freshly harvested crop experienced a multiple increase.
The four state supply agencies – Pungrain, Punsup, warehousing corporation and Markfed – source produce from farmers in mandis and supply centers operated by the state agricultural marketing board (mandi board) and hand them over to the Food Corporation of India (FCI) for distribution across the country under the public distribution system and other schemes.
FCI also buys some grain from the state.
“This is the first time that easing has been allowed to this extent and without write-down,” Secretary of State for Food and Civil Supplies Gurkirat Kirpal Singh said when contacted, adding that this is a win-win situation for the farmers as well as the state government.
In a message posted on the microblogging site Twitter, Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for agreeing to the state’s request and allowing generous easing in the purchase of shriveled grain.
“I assure you that the Punjab government will continue to work earnestly to contribute to the food security of the nation,” the message added.
On April 11, the state government, sounding the alarm, wrote to the central ministry asking for relaxation, after which teams of scientists took samples and recommended relaxations. The scientists visited again last week to take more samples after the ministry suggested they increase the sample size for better assessment. At least 800 samples were collected in two phases from the 23 districts for quality assessment.
The easings were allowed when a large portion of the current rabi season’s wheat was purchased and at least 19 lakh tonnes were handed over to the FCI to move the grain to consumer states.
“Of this amount, 50% is conditional on whatever relaxation the Center authorizes, the harvest handed over to the FCI will bear the cost accordingly,” a senior officer said.
“At the start of the supply, when we saw a drop in quality, we asked the Center for three things: up to 20% softening in terms of shrunken grain, no reduction in value due to a drop in yield and an easing for grain purchased since the start of the season on April 1,” Singh said.
The overall yield in the country has suffered a yield loss of at least 13.5%, leading to lower state revenues and farmers’ incomes. Against the expected arrival of 135 lakh tons, 102 lakh tons reached state mandis of which state agencies bought 96 lakh tons and six lakh tons were by traders.
The easing without impairment will help farmers as it would give them a full MSP (of ₹2,015 per quintal) compared to the available weight.