Wheat stocks slip below buffer norms, govt in RS
According to norms fixed by the government, wheat reserves between Oct 1 and December 31 need to be maintained at 20.5 million tonnes
India’s current wheat stocks have fallen below a mandatory threshold limit known as buffer norms for the first time in nearly a decade, data cited by the Union government in Rajya Sabha on Friday showed.
The country’s total stocks of federally-held foodgrains (rice and wheat combined) as on December 1 2022 stood at 30.5 million tonnes.
Of this, wheat reserves were at 19 million tonnes while rice stock stood at 11.5 million tonnes, agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar stated in a reply to a question by Trinamool Congress MP Jawhar Sircar.
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According to norms fixed by the government, wheat reserves between October 1 and December 31 need to be maintained at 20.5 million tonnes. Of this, 3 million tonnes should be held as a strategic reserve by the Food Corporation of India, according to a norm fixed by the Union Cabinet, while 17.5 million tonnes should be available as operational stocks for distribution to the poor under the National Food Security Act.
The agriculture ministry however said current stocks were sufficient to meet requirements under the National Food Security Act and, by January 1, 2023, total wheat reserves held by the government will be higher than the buffer norm.
A prolonged heatwave in March this year crimped India’s wheat output for 2022-23 to 106 million tonnes from 109 million tonnes in the previous year. This came at a time of high international prices due to the Ukraine conflict, which led to large exports from India, the world’s second-largest grower.
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As a result, wheat purchases by the government for the public distribution system dipped to a 15-year low to 18.79 million tonnes during 2022-23, compared to 44 million tonne purchased in the previous year.
The shortfall has pushed up domestic grain prices. Annual retail inflation rose 5.88% in November, down from 6.77% in the previous month, government data showed on Monday. This is the first time this year that consumer prices have come down below the Reserve Bank of India-mandated 6% limit.
Despite the cooling of the overall inflation rate, cereals prices rose to 12.96% in November from 12.08 in the previous month, the data showed. Retail inflation in wheat leapt 19.67% in November against 17.64% in October.
The government on Thursday said that it had “sufficient foodgrain stocks under the central pool to meet the requirement of the National Food Security Act and its other welfare schemes as well as for additional allocation of Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana”.
The agriculture ministry, in a statement, said it estimated 15.9 million tonnes of wheat to be available as on January 1 2023, which is “well above the buffer norm requirement of 13.8 million tonnes”. As on December 12, the government held 18.2 million tonnes of wheat in its reserves.