The Centre has set the procurement target for kharif-grown rice for the 2022-23 season (October-September) to 51.8 million tonnes (mt) from the current season’s purchase of 51 mt. The higher target is despite the apprehension of lower production of the cereal after sowing has been affected in major growing States due to deficient rainfall or delayed monsoon rains.

At a meeting on Tuesday, chaired by Union Food Secretary Sudhanshu Pandey here, to discuss the procurement arrangements for rice starting from October 1, States have informed the Centre about their likely production and what their target is to procure for the Central Pool as most of the purchases are made by their agencies while Food Corporation of India is directly involved only in very limited areas. “A quantity of 51.8 mt rice has been estimated for procurement during the forthcoming KMS 2022-23 (Kharif Crop) as against 50.98 mt actually procured during last kharif marketing season 2021-22 (from the kharif crop)“, an official statement said.

Focus on millets

“During the meeting, issues relating to adoption of mechanised procurement operations, borrowing at a lower interest rate, reduction in the cost of procurement operations, adoption of innovative techniques and quality control mechanism, promotion of millets, gunny bags requirements, online settlement of food subsidy claims were discussed and it was suggested that such innovations should be incentivised,” the Food Ministry said.

Pandey said the focus should be on procurement of millets, not only on account of the International Year of Millet 2023 but also because of climate change, which has adversely affected wheat and rice production. The Centre has proposed 1.37 mt of coarse grains procurement by the States during the forthcoming season against the procurement of 0.63 mt as on date.

Packing material shortage

The secretary highlighted the shortage of packaging material and said arranging the material has become a challenge after only 50 per cent of the requirement could be arranged through jute mills. The Centre is exploring all possibilities of increasing the production/availability of new jute bags by testing new technology — Smart Jute Bags (SJB), officials said. As per test reports, trials have been found successful and these are in the final stages for approval.

The deficit in paddy acreage shrunk to 6 per cent at 367.55 lakh hectare (lh) as of August 26 against 390.99 lh a year ago, with nearly 24 lh being added in a week. The decline was 8 per cent until August 18 and 12 per cent until August 12. The government had earlier set this season’s paddy area target at 413.13 lh.