New Delhi: Bihar, a state that traditionally falls way short of its wheat procurement target, has performed exceptionally in the ongoing rabi wheat procurement season.
As of 6 June, wheat procurement in Bihar this season touched 2.31 lakh metric tonnes (LMT) against the corresponding figure of just 4,494 metric tonnes last year — over 50 times higher, according to data from the Food Corporation of India (FCI).
This comes in a state that failed to procure even 1 per cent of its own target last year (7 LMT), let alone the entire production. Its production estimate last year was 61 LMT.
Not just Bihar, even the other major producer of wheat, Uttar Pradesh, used to procure only a minuscule amount of the harvest in the state. UP, too, has performed well this time around.
The procurement in UP touched 45.78 LMT as against 26.96 LMT in the last rabi season. The ongoing wheat procurement is the third highest in UP’s recent history.
India’s largest wheat producing state procured just 65 per cent of wheat last year — 35.75 LMT against the target of 55 LMT. This target itself was only about 15 per cent of the total 363 LMT estimated wheat production in the state.
What the officials say
According to senior officials in the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Bihar also increased its initial estimates with an extension of procurement season.
Sudhanshu Pandey, secretary in the ministry, said Bihar has achieved its highest-ever wheat procurement target this year, and has revised its estimate to procure 7 LMT of wheat now.
“This is a more than six-time increase in the state’s initial wheat procurement target of 1 LMT as it has also extended the deadline of the ongoing procurement season from 31 May to 15 June,” he said.
Traditionally wheat procurement has remained very low in Bihar.
Even in 2019-20, the state procured only around 3,000 tonnes, which in itself was a steep fall from 17,504 tonnes procured in 2017-18. These quantities were less than even 1 per cent of the total wheat produced in Bihar.
Vinay Kumar, secretary, Bihar food and consumer protection department, said the state is confident of purchasing wheat up to “3 LMT this year” and raise it further in the future to 20 LMT.
“We also procured 35.5 LMT paddy last year which was a record. Then also the Centre allowed us to increase the target of procurement from 30 LMT to 45 LMT, as they have always provided us unflinching support,” said Kumar.
“We are doing this to ensure that farmers in the state get remunerative prices at MSP (minimum support price) and not resort to distress sale. Also, we are looking to fulfil our PDS requirement from our own grains from our own farmers. So far we have a foodgrain supply worth 8 months and we have to take 4 months of PDS foodgrain from other states. But from next year onwards we will be self-sufficient,” he said.
According to him, the procured food is shifted into PDS at the first available opportunity to steer clear of the state’s current storage constraint.
“We had just 3 LMT of storage around 7-8 years back with the state food corporation. Today we have around 15 LMT. Cooperative societies also have 12 LMT of their own. We will enhance these storages on PPP models such as the PEG scheme of FCI,” he said.
“Also, public godown construction is going on. We are targeting to increase storage to 25 LMT in future. In future we will allow farmers to express the amount of foodgrain they want to sell so that we can sort it accordingly and allocate them a slot so that they don’t have to wait for procurement,” Kumar said.
Why Bihar’s purchase is rising
According to secretary Vinay Kumar, there are three main reasons behind the record wheat purchase this year.
“Firstly, the government decided that all 8,500 farmer cooperatives, such as Primary Agricultural Credit Society, across the state were directed to purchase all the foodgrain brought by the farmers. Secondly, the supply of credit to these societies was ensured to transfer money to the farmers for their crop production in the next 48 hours,” he said.
“Also, for the first time, the government decided that farmers should not do multiple registrations at cooperative websites for selling their crop to the government such as land records, land receipts. We have accessed the master database of farmers from the agricultural ministry beneficiaries of various schemes and made procurement accordingly,” he said.
Any farmer registered with the agriculture department can sell to any cooperative bodies at MSP, he said, adding that farmers are also entitled to approach any cooperative societies for selling their produce at MSP if they have any issues with their local centres.
Other states also performing well
Apart from Bihar, other laggard states have also touched new levels in wheat purchase this year, forcing the Union food ministry to revise its annual procurement target amid all-time high wheat procurement for central food stock.
The government has raised the current wheat procurement target to 433 lakh tonnes — an increase of six lakh tonnes. The procurement of 416 LMT across the country is an all-time high, surpassing the previous record of 389 LMT.
This is also 12 per cent higher over the corresponding period. Until 6 June, around 416 LMT of wheat had been procured against 371 LMT last year.
In Jammu and Kashmir, the procurement has touched 19,993 tonnes, compared to 11 tonnes last year. In Delhi, procurement has jumped several folds to 5,955 tonnes from barely 28 tonnes.
Major wheat contributing states such as Punjab and Haryana closed their procurement season by 15 May and 25 May, respectively.