With India likely to harvest a record wheat output, the Centre said it is confident of achieving wheat procurement target of 34.2 million tonne and will soon take a call on relaxing quality norms for buying in Punjab and Haryana in view of crop damage due to untimely rains.
Earlier in the day while announcing the bi-monthly monetary policy, Reserve Bank Governor Shaktikanta Das said the expectation of a record rabi harvest bodes well for easing of food price pressure.
“There is already evidence of a correction in wheat prices in March on supply side interventions by the government. The impact of the recent unseasonal rains in some parts of the country, however, needs to be watched,” the Governor said.
Addressing a press conference, Union Food Secretary Sanjeev Chopra said the government is hopeful of a record wheat output of 112.2 million tonne in 2022-23 crop year ending June, despite inclement weather conditions in some parts of the country affecting grain quality.
The likely production loss due to unseasonal rains in Punjab and Haryana will be offset by yield gains expected in other wheat producing states because of lower temperature, he said.
Sanjeev Chopra said the Centre has already relaxed quality norms for wheat procurement in Madhya Pradesh to ensure that farmers do not suffer because of vagaries of weather and they get minimum support price (MSP).
“Because of the inclement weather in the last two weeks, there has been some damage to the wheat crop. But the production loss will be minimal. We are hopeful of achieving the overall production target of 112.2 million tonne,” Sanjeev Chopra said.
There are reports of crop damage in 16 districts of Punjab and some parts of Haryana, but a final estimate on the extent of damage has not been worked out yet. However, a marginal production loss is being anticipated, he said.
While there may be some production loss in Punjab and Haryana, there is a likelihood that particular loss will be offset by the yield gain in late-sown varieties to be achieved because of lower temperature in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, he said.
“In net, I find we will probably end up achieving the production target of 112 million tonne or in the worst scenario there may be a negligible drop in the production,” Sanjeev Chopra said, and added that traders need not “panic” about the production loss.
On wheat procurement, the secretary exuded confidence that the government will achieve the procurement target of 34.2 million tonne in the current marketing year (April-March).
He said since the quality of grains has been impacted due to untimely rains, some state governments have sought relaxation in procurement norms.
“We have already relaxed quality norms for Madhya Pradesh. Punjab and Haryana too have sought relaxation. Our officials are in the field collecting samples and hopefully we will take a call next week,” he said.
So far, the government has procured 2.5 -3.5 lakh tonne of wheat mostly from Madhya Pradesh. Harvesting has been delayed a bit because of the inclement weather.
Wheat procurement had declined to 18.79 million tonne in previous year due to fall in domestic production to 107.74 million tonne owing to heat wave in some states, and higher exports.
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