Foodgrain stocks — rice, wheat stocks and in the Central Pool managed by the Food Corporation of India (FCI) — were 51.14 million tonnes (mt) as of October 1, which is 66 per cent higher than the buffer norm and strategic reserve of 30.77 mt.

However, due to lower procurement of wheat and the continuation of the free foodgrain scheme PMGKAY, stocks have depleted to the lowest in last five years.

The previous low of rice and wheat stock was 43.34 mt on October 1, 2017.

According to the latest FCI data, the wheat stock was 22.75 mt, rice 20.47 mt and unmilled paddy 11.83 mt, whereas the stock a year ago was wheat 46.85 mt, rice 25.33 mt and unmilled paddy 14.07 mt.

Meeting welfare needs

The government has ensured that sufficient stock of foodgrains to meet the requirement of the National Food Security Act (NFSA), other welfare schemes and additional requirements under Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) are available in the central pool and prices remains under control, the Food Ministry said earlier this month.

With an additional expenditure of ₹44,762 crore, the Union Cabinet on September 28 approved the extension of PMGKAY for another three months — October to December — to allow 80 crore NFSA beneficiaries to draw additional foodgrains free of cost, over and above their regular entitlement under the law. The foodgrains requirement to run it for the three months will be around 122 lakh tonnes.

After the extension, the closing stocks with FCI in current fiscal (on March 31) will be about 11 mt of wheat and 22.5 mt of rice, which are more than the buffer norms. The buffer norms, including strategic reserves, prescribe 7.46 mt of wheat and 13.58 mt of rice as on April 1.

The government had earlier said it had not intervened in the market through the open market sale scheme (OMSS) so far. However, in 2021-22, it offloaded 8 mt of foodgrains through the scheme by offering rice and wheat at a comparatively lower price.

Due to lower stock, the government has not allocated any quantity under OMSS this year even as flour millers have been demanding some quantity of wheat be released.