Agri Business

Centre under pressure to relax norms for shrivelled wheat procured in Punjab, Haryana

Prabhudatta Mishra | | Updated on: May 04, 2022
Out of 365 samples collected by the Central team from different purchase centres in as many as 24 districts of Punjab, only 41 samples were conformed to the current FAQ regulations

Out of 365 samples collected by the Central team from different purchase centres in as many as 24 districts of Punjab, only 41 samples were conformed to the current FAQ regulations

FCI has recommended relaxation in norms from current 6 per cent up to 20 per cent in case of “shrivelled refraction”

Arguing that there is no loss of quality or shelf life due to grains getting shrivelled and broken, Punjab and Haryana have sought relaxation in procurement norms, which the Centre may not be able to reject this year as it may lose most of its wheat that it has already purchased in these two States that do not conform to current standards. Even Food Corporation of India (FCI) has favourably recommended to the Food Ministry for relaxation at the earliest.

‘Quality unaffected’

“There is only a reduction in weight when the wheat is shrivelled and it causes loss to the farmers. There will not be any issue with quality when distributed through ration shops,” said an official source. He denied that it is unfit for human consumption.

Following the representations of Punjab and Haryana, FCI/Food Ministry had sent its teams to both the States last month (April 13-17) and samples were tested in laboratories, sources said. After analysing the results, FCI is believed to have recommended relaxation in fair and average quality (FAQ) norms from current 6 per cent up to 20 per cent in case of “shrivelled refraction”, though the average percentage will be much lower than 20 per cent.

An official statement by the Punjab Government on Tuesday said that the Centre would send another team of officials to collect samples from the mandis to ascertain the extent of the problem of shrivelled grains.

Procurement down

The combined wheat procurement in both the States were down by 34 per cent at 12.63 million tonnes (mt) as on May 1 from the corresponding period of 19.24 mt. The fall in Haryana was over 53 per cent and that in Punjab was more than 20 per cent. FCI has suggested the Food Ministry to consider distribution of wheat having more than 16 per cent shrivelled grain within the State and take the grains with lesser amount of shrivelled grains to other States.

Out of 365 samples collected by the Central team from different purchase centres in as many as 24 districts of Punjab, only 41 samples were conformed to the current FAQ norms of less than 6 per cent. But as many as 102 samples were in the range of 15-20 per cent, 153 samples in 6-15 per cent and remaining were more than 20 per cent. Wheat in Bathinda, Faridkot, Muktsar Sahib, Fatehgarh Sahib and SBS Nagar were most affected, sources said.

In Haryana, out of 272 samples tested, 140 samples were found to have shrivelled and broken grains up to 6 per cent and 132 samples were in 6-14 per cent bracket. Farmers in Kurushetra, Rohtak and Hissar were most affected due to loss of weight. “Many times in the past, the government had relaxed the norms and there is nothing unusual in it. An early decision will help the agency to move out the grains out of these two States at the earliest,” said a former executive director of FCI who was in charge of procurement.

During 2020-21, relaxation of norms for shrivelled and broken wheat was allowed up to 16 per cent in Punjab, up to 12 per cent in Uttar Pradesh and up to 10 per cent in Haryana. Last year also some relaxation was made for Punjab and Rajasthan, sources said.

Meanwhile, Punjab Government has announced that closure of procurement centres shall start in a phased manner from May 5 due to “drastic decline” in wheat arrivals across the State.

Published on May 03, 2022
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