The government's wheat procurement target for the ongoing 2014-15 marketing year is likely to be missed and slip below the last year's level of 25 million tonnes, food secretary Sudhir Kumar said on Tuesday.
State-run Food Corporation of India (FCI) undertakes grain procurement on behalf of the government to ensure that farmers get the minimum support price (MSP).
According to food ministry data, FCI and state government-owned agencies have procured 7.5 million tonnes of wheat so far this year, significantly lower than 11.96 million tonnes purchased in the year-ago period.
The wheat marketing year runs from April to March but FCI's procurement operation gets completed in three months.
"Last year, FCI had procured 25 million tonnes of wheat. As per my own assessment, this year's overall wheat procurement would be lower than last year," Kumar said while addressing a seminar on flour milling industry issues.
However, wheat procurement would be sufficient to meet the demand under the Public Distribution System (PDS) and other government welfare schemes like Midday Meal, he added.
The overall wheat purchase is expected to be much lower than the target of 31 million tonnes set for the current year.
According to food ministry officials, the pace of wheat procurement in Punjab is very slow due to delayed harvesting in the state, following recent unseasonal rains.
FCI has been able to procure 9,40,581 tonnes in Punjab as on today in the current marketing year, as against 4.3 million tonnes in the same period last year, says official data.
Wheat growers at several areas in Punjab have even complained of non-procurement of crop by procurement agencies, citing higher moisture content.
In Haryana, wheat procurement is down marginally at 3.2 million tonnes as against 3.7 million tonnes, while procurement in Madhya Pradesh is also lower at 3.17 million tonnes as against 3.6 million tonnes in the review period.
Procurement in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and other growing states is trailing behind last year's level.
Wheat production in India, the world's second biggest grower, is pegged at 95.6 million tonnes for this year as against 93.51 million tonnes in the year-ago period.