The Centre has set a target to purchase 74.2 million tonne (MT) of paddy (nearly 50 MT in terms of rice) in the current kharif marketing season (October-March), 18% higher than last season’s 62.7 MT, minister for food and public distribution Piyush Goyal said on Friday.
Terming the current agitation by farmers in Punjab as politically motivated, he said the Centre is prepared for a dialogue to remove the apprehensions regarding MSP. He also reiterated that official procurement at minimum support prices (MSPs) would continue.
As for the ongoing kharif procurement, the Food Corporation of India has so far purchased 19 MT of paddy across the country, which is 24% higher than in the corresponding period last year. Given farmers’ agitation in Punjab and Haryana, the procurement season was advanced by a few days and started from September 26, instead of normal schedule of October 1.
The Centre has been buying grains in excess of what it requires (about 61 MT) under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) in the last few years. The total rice and wheat purchase for the Central Pool stock was 90.65 MT from the 2019-20 crops. Goyal, however, emphasised that procurement at MSP is part of some major initiatives taken by the government to double the farmers’ income by 2022 as targeted.
Citing the current kharif paddy procurement in Punjab at nearly 13 MT as on Friday, Goyal said it was 37% more than the year-ago period. He also highlighted the paddy procurement in other states like Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu have been robust.
Asked about procurement in Bihar, where farmers normally sell their paddy below MSP, the minister asked for a report from the food secretary if arrivals have started in any mandi. Sudip Singh, executive director at FCI, maintained that there was no arrivals of paddy in Bihar and procurement would start from November 15 in the state.
Goyal also said that the government’s expenditure on paddy procurement in the current kharif season is set to grow by 21% to `1.4 lakh crore due to continuous increase in both MSP and quantity. He said that the Centre expects to cover 1.57 crore farmers (roughly 11% of total 14.5 crore farmers) under the MSP programme, which will be 26% more than the previous season.
FE had earlier reported that in case of the 10 crops that were actually procured by the government in 2019-20, the purchases made up for just about 33% of their total market value. If wheat, paddy and cotton, where MSP purchases were 37%, 44% and 30%, respectively — much higher than in the case of other crops — are excluded, the total MSP procurement value of the remaining 19 crops for which MSPs existed in the season, was a dismal 9% of their total market value.
“If in kharif the procurement touches 50 MT in terms of rice, there could be another 6-7 MT expected from rabi which will take the total procurement to another record high of 57 MT. Where is the offtake policy to distribute those grains,” asked Pradeep Saha, a researcher on food policy. The Centre had purchased a record 51.7 MT of rice in the 2019-20 (October-September) season from both kharif and rabi crops.