To the relief of farmers, the Center on Sunday said it has relaxed quality rules for wheat procurement in Punjab and Haryana in the current 2022-23 marketing year.
The fair and average quality (FAQ) of wheat, including shredded and broken grains, has been relaxed by 18 per cent without any price cut, the Union Food Ministry said in a statement.
The Food Corporation of India (FCI), the nodal agency, has been allowed to procure wheat in Punjab and Haryana, including Chandigarh, under relaxed quality rules, it said.
“This decision will alleviate the suffering of farmers and avoid the hassle of selling wheat,” the ministry said.
The Punjab and Haryana governments had requested the Center to relax the quality rules for wheat in the current 2022-23 marketing year (April-March). Wrinkled and broken grain limits were sought at 6 percent and relaxation up to 20 percent.
A similar decision was taken in 2020-21 when FAQ rules were relaxed by 16 per cent to protect the interests of farmers.
According to the ministry, samples collected and analyzed by the central parties visiting these two states in April-May had the presence of wrinkled and broken grains at different percentages and outside the FAQ rules.
The emergence of shrunken grains is a natural phenomenon that occurs in March as a result of intense heat waves in the northern part of the country.
This unfavorable weather is beyond the control of farmers and therefore they should not be punished for such natural calamities. Accordingly, the government demands that the government sympathetically consider changes in the texture of crops to alleviate the suffering of farmers.
“Thus, appropriate relaxation of FAQ rules will protect the interests of farmers and promote efficient procurement and distribution of food grains,” the ministry added.
On Saturday, Food Secretary Sudhanshu Pandey said the government’s wheat procurement so far in the current marketing year has reached 18 million tonnes.
It could reach a maximum of 18.5 million tonnes, which is much lower than the previous estimate of 19.5 million tonnes and the initial target for this year was 44.4 million tonnes, he said.
In the 2021-22 marketing year, wheat collection stood at 43.3 million tons.
Ministry officials blamed the decline in purchases, an increase in private purchases for export purposes and a slight decline in the country’s production.
Total wheat production this year will be 105-106 million tonnes, up from 109.5 million tonnes in the previous year.