WIth the crop arrival expected in a month, the Centre has further reduced the stock limit on wheat that prescribes the maximum quantity a stakeholder can keep at any point of time. Retailers have been spared in this round and it is confined to wholesalers and big chains.

According to a statement issued by the Food Ministry on Thursday, 500 tonnes of wheat limit has been fixed, against 1,000 tonnes earlier, for any big chain retail outlet at its depot level as well as for traders and wholesalers. However, there is no change for retailers, including outlets run by big chain retailers which will remain at 5 tonnes.

For processors of atta and other flour products like sooji and maida, the maximum capacity will be 60 per cent of the monthly installed capacity of the mills from February to April.

As the government has eased the stock limit on millers, this step will now allow free-flow of wheat products from mills to the market. This timely action was prompted by roller flour millers’ complaint to the government, pointing out a anomaly, sources said.

“The government had on December 8 last year prescribed the stock limit for flour millers and processors at 70 per cent of monthly installed capacity multiplied by remaining months of 2023-24. This meant whatever stock they have it was to be brought down to zero level by March 31, 2024. The continuity in the entire supply chain of atta, sooji and maida could have been disrupted had this not been changed,” a source said.

Preventing specualtion

The Ministry said that in order to manage the overall food security and to prevent hoarding and unscrupulous speculation, the government had in June 2023 imposed stock limits on wheat, applicable to traders/wholesalers, retailers, big chain retailers and processors in all States and Union Territories. The Stock Limits Order is valid until March 31, 2024.

“Officials of Central and State Governments will be closely monitoring enforcement of these stock limits to ensure that no artificial scarcity of wheat is created in the country,” the statement said. The Department of Food and Public Distribution is maintaining a close watch over the stock position of wheat to control prices and ensure easy availability in the country, it said.

The Ministry has also asked all wheat stocking entities to continue updating their stock position on every Friday. Traders and big chain retailers will have to conform to the revised limit issued Thursday within 30 days. The government has warned of action against any entity which is found to have not registered on the portal or violates the stock limits under the Essential Commodities Act, 1955.

The ministry also said that out of 101.5 lakh tonnes (lt) of wheat allocated under the Open Market Sale Scheme (OMSS), at a subsidised reserve price of ₹2,150/quintal for release in market through weekly e-auctions, 80.04 lt has been sold by the Food Corporation of India (FCI), so far since June 28, 2023.

Bharat Atta

FCI is also issuing wheat regularly from an allocation of 7.5 lt to Central Co-operative organisations like Nafed, NCCF and Kendriya Bhandar for processing into atta and for sale under ‘Bharat Atta’ brand through their physical/mobile outlets, at ₹27.50/kg in 10-kg bags. Areas where prices are reigning higher have been identified, and the agencies are undertaking targeted sales in these areas, the government said.

FCI had 163.53 lt of wheat stock in the Central Pool as on January 1, which was above the buffer norm. The government has been expecting wheat production this year to jump to a record 1140 lt.