Foodgrain stock highest since 2016: Govt data

Published on May 24, 2021 02:27 AM IST

Economists, however, questioned why the government couldn’t expand the public distribution system (PDS) to help more people hit hard by the second wave of the pandemic.

A farmhand carries a bundle of hand cut wheat while harvesting a field in the Panipat district of Haryana, India, on Sunday, April 11, (Bloomberg)
A farmhand carries a bundle of hand cut wheat while harvesting a field in the Panipat district of Haryana, India, on Sunday, April 11, (Bloomberg)
By, New Delhi

India registered the highest food grain stock since 2016 this month due to record procurement of wheat from Punjab and Haryana, according to food ministry data.

Food Corporation of India (FCI) said it had procured 850.3 metric tonnes (MT) of wheat and rice from farmers across India till May 18; another 260 MT of un-milled rice was also acquired, taking the total stock of grain in government warehouses to over 1,000 MT. This was 38% higher than 2016 when FCI had procured 527.9 MT of wheat and rice. This steadily went up over the years, with 524 MT acquired in May 2017, 607 MT in 2018, 642 MT in 2019 and 642 MT in 2020.

A food ministry official said on condition of anonymity that most of it was acquired during the second wave of the pandemic, in April and May, through doorstep collection.

Economists, however, questioned why the government couldn’t expand the public distribution system (PDS) to help more people hit hard by the second wave of the pandemic. “To be honest, I am shocked that though the stocks are so high, the central government has not expanded the PDS even though it was abundantly clear last year that many more people needed the food subsidy,” said Reetika Khera, development economist with Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi.

The government procures grains from farmers across the country to provide rice and wheat under PDS to fulfil its obligation under National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013, which mandates that 75% of the rural population and 50% of the urban population should be provided subsidised grain. Some states such as Tamil Nadu, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand provide additional food items such as pulses under NFSA to ensure food security of poor families.

The ministry website showed that the highest wheat procurement was from Punjab, followed by Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh. Wheat was sown in 31.5 million hectares, 10% higher than last year due to good monsoon. The highest paddy procurement was from Punjab, followed by Haryana, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, the ministry said.

Haryana said it had, till May 13, transferred 14,693 crore as minimum support price (MSP) for wheat directly into the accounts of farmers. In the same period, the Punjab government transferred 24,000 crore as MSP to the farmers.

Higher procurement has resulted in the lifting of more food grains under PDS. Food ministry data shows 548.04 MT of wheat and paddy was allocated, of which 310.04 MT was distributed to the states. Till May 21, 146 MT of food grains had reached the people.

But Khera said it wasn’t enough. “The government is showing no sign of using the food stocks to help the people during this unprecedented crisis that has gone on for a year now, and for which the government is partly responsible,” she said.

Several reports coming from different states of people not getting subsidised food grains without ration cards seem to buttress the IIT economist’s argument.

PDS covers roughly 800 million people — about 60% of the population — even though NFSA says it should cover 66% or a 100 million more people. This is much less than the government’s own claim made on June 4 last year that a billion people were covered under PDS.

Right to Food Campaign, an informal network of organisations and individuals striving for food rights in India, believes that this under-coverage is because of the central government using 2011 population data to fix PDS coverage. As a result, over 400 million people are left to manage without any food support from the government, which is huge considering the loss of livelihood during the pandemic, the network had said in a statement on May 10.

Get Latest India Newsalong with Latest Newsand Top Headlinesfrom India and around the world.
SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Chetan Chauhan is National Affairs Editor. A journalist for over two decades, he has written extensively on social sector and politics with special focus on environment and political economy.

SHARE
Story Saved
×
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
My Offers
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Thursday, December 08, 2022
Start 15 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now
Register Free and get Exciting Deals