The Centre on Tuesday said it would relax the norms for procurement of food grains, a day after Congress president Sonia Gandhi wrote to the government asking them to do so in view of the distress caused to farmers due to unseasonal rains.
“We are ready to relax the quality norms for procurement of wheat and other grains to provide relief to the farmers who are affected by the recent spell of unseasonal rainfall,” said Ram Vilas Paswan, food minister.
Unseasonal rains in various parts of the country have severely affected rabi crops in about 113 lakh hectares of land in the country. In order to mitigate the damage, the food ministry has asked the Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh governments to test samples of wheat jointly with FCI immediately on its arrival so that appropriate relaxation in quality norms can be considered for the procurement.
The ministry said quality norms for procurement of wheat, which has lost its shine, have already been relaxed in Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat in the current rabi season.
Norms were also relaxed for the procurement of rice in those areas affected by Cyclones Phailin and Hudhud.
Sonia had written to Paswan saying she had visited affected areas and witnessed firsthand the acute distress the farmers were facing: “Several of them have been pushed to poverty overnight and are staring at bankruptcy.”
‘Wheat production likely to decline’
India’s wheat production is likely to decline by 4-5% in the current crop year from the initial estimates of 95.76 million tonnes due to unseasonal rains, agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh said. The ministry, in its second advanced estimate, has projected wheat production to drop slightly in 2014-15 crop year (July-June) from 95.85 million tonnes in the previous year.