After HT reported about a serious setback to rice procurement in Punjab, the food ministry, faced with the prospect of 3 million tonnes of grains in Punjab going waste, has relaxed quality norms. The acceptable limit of damaged grains has been raised to 4.75 per cent from 3 per cent.
With this change, the largest state-owned grain-trading agency, the Food Corporation India (FCI), hopes to buy out bulk of the harvest from the “PAU 201”— a new variety of rice — which was damaged to the extent of over 8 per cent.
For income, farmers depend heavily on state agencies, such as the FCI, which buy their produce at profitable prices.
“The government has allowed us to accept up to 4.75 per cent damage. We have already moved a bulk of this variety rice out of Punjab so that the FCI can create space in the godowns in states where delivery is to be made,” FCI chief Shiraj Hussain told HT.
The entire stock is unlikely to be salvaged, as buying, storing or selling more than 5 per cent of damaged grains is a crime under India’s main food standard law, the Prevention of Food Adulteration (PFA) Act.
Existing specifications do not allow government agencies to procure grains with more than 3 per cent damage. “Other consuming states tend to reject grains with higher percentage of damage,” Hussain said.
The Punjab government has banned the variety during the new current season because it is prone to damage, Hussain added.
The state is also likely seek permission to export some of the damaged grains, sources in the food ministry said. The PAU 201 variety requires less irrigation but gives high yields, prompting farmers to grow.