The Punjab government on Wednesday decided to start wheat procurement from April 15, instead of the usual schedule from April 1, in view of the delay in maturing of the crop due to the recent rain and hailstorm.
“The (wheat) procurement was to begin on April 1, but due to inclement weather and another spell of unseasonal rain expected, it is likely to start around April 15,” said an official of the food and civil supplies department.
The department announced that it had made arrangements to procure 125 lakh tonnes of wheat as the target, for which the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) sanctioned the first instalment of the cash credit limit (CCL) of Rs 14,640 crore. The state government has demanded a total of Rs 18,000 crore for wheat procurement.
In the previous kharif season, the Centre had stopped the release of the CCL, asking the state government to clear pending amount of Rs 42,000 crore, which the state owes to the Centre. Reportedly, Punjab has streamlined procurement and also started clearing the pending amount. According to state government officials, there would be no problem regarding the CCL this season.
Punjab’s total wheat production is expected to fall by 10 to 15 lakh tonnes from previous season’s 176 lakh tonnes. In the previous season, 116 lakh tonnes were procured from the state. At the start of the rabi season, wheat production was predicted to break all records and reach 190 lakh tonnes, higher than last year’s production, but due to the inclement weather, the figure is likely to go below the previous season’s mark.
A state government spokesperson said Punjab food and supplies minister Adaish Pratap Singh Kairon took up the matter of release of the CCL with Union finance minister Arun Jaitley. The Centre has promised to release more funds for procurement as and when required.
According to the spokesperson, Kairon had met Union minister for consumer affairs, food and public distribution Ram Bilas Paswan, who gave an assurance to relax moisture and colour norms for the procurement of wheat after assessing the situation on the arrival of wheat in mandis.
In a report to the Union ministry of agriculture last month, the state agriculture commissioner assessed the loss to be Rs 530 crore. “It will increase in case the weather doesn’t improve,” a senior officer said.