Facing a wheat glut, the Punjab government has sought the Centre’s permission to directly export the produce. The central government has decided to send 40 lakh tonnes of wheat to foreign countries, mainly Iran, and made the FCI the nodal agency for the purpose. The FCI has procured samples on behalf of the union food ministry from Punjab and Madhya Pradesh for testing the grain for exports. The Indian Grain Management and Research Institute is conducting the tests.
The procurement of wheat in Punjab in the current rabi season has touched an all-time high of 128 lakh tonnes and so has the quantum of wheat stored in an unscientific manner, which has shot up to over 40 lakh tonnes.
Other than open plinths and covered godowns, wheat in huge quantities is stored temporarily in grain markets, procurement centres and rice shelling mills across the state.
“The state government has taken up the matter with the union food ministry as we are facing a glut here with no more space to store foodgrains. We want the central government to allow us to directly export wheat. We are still awaiting its reply,” said Punjab food and civil supplies secretary DS Grewal.
The modalities are being worked out and a final decision from the Empowered Group of Ministers is awaited.
“As per the existing policy, direct exports by states are not possible. Moreover, the grain available in Punjab has already been procured for the national pool and it is not the state’s property now,” said FCI deputy general manager Aseem Chhabra.
When the procurement of wheat began on April 1, the state had an opening balance of 131 lakh tonnes of foodgrains (out of which 65 lakh tonnes includes wheat and the rest paddy). Punjab has a covered space for storing 100 lakh tonnes of foodgrains. The open plinths can store another 106 lakh tonnes.