Based on initial estimates from States, the country’s rice production in the current kharif season will likely exceed last year’s 110 million tonnes (mt), sources said. Accordingly, the Food Ministry, on Tuesday, announced that the target for next season’s procurement beginning October 1 has been marginally raised to 52.1 mt from the current season’s actual purchase of 49.6 mt.

Last year the government had set the procurement target at 51.56 mt from kharif-grown rice. Though main procurement is carried out between October and March, the purchase in some States like Assam and West Bengal continue until June as kharif paddy’s harvesting is delayed in other States.

Addressing media, Food Secretary Sanjeev Chopra said the target is based on the feedback shared by State governments at the two-day Food Ministers’ conference on fortification that concluded on Tuesday.

4% higher area

Official sources said most of the State Government representatives informed that the production in their States would be almost at par with the previous year, based on the acreage report. The Agriculture Ministry will release its first estimate of kharif crops’ production for 2023 kharif season in the third week of September. The official target has been fixed at 111 mt for kharif 2023.

Paddy acreage has been completed in 90 per cent of normal area and is 4 per cent more than the year-ago period. The sowing area was 360.79 lakh hectares (lh) until August 18 against 345.79 lh a year ago. Higher acreage has been reported from Telangana (by 4.42 lh), Bihar (4.15 lh), Chhattisgarh (2.71 lh), Jharkhand (2.24 lh), Haryana (1.64 lh), West Bengal (1.47 lh), Uttar Pradesh (1.28 lh), Punjab (0.40 lh) and Madhya Pradesh (0.32 lh). But lower acreage was seen in Andhra Pradesh (1.53 lh), Karnataka (1.47 lh), Assam (0.61 lh) and Odisha (0.43 lh).

Fuelling speculation

Meanwhile, Chopra also said there is no proposal, as of now, to restrict exports of parboiled non-basmati rice. But until a decision is taken by the government, it could not be shared, he quipped, fuelling speculation that it could be still under consideration.

On July 20, the Centre banned exports of non-basmati white rice to boost domestic supply and keep retail prices under check during the upcoming festive season. In September last year, exports of broken rice were banned.

As per official data, India’s total exports of basmati rice were 4.56 mt worth $ 4.8 billion in 2022-23. Non-basmati rice exports were 17.79 mt worth $6.36 billion. In the April-June period of this fiscal, about 1.55 mt of non-basmati white rice was exported against 1.16 mt in the year-ago period.

The ban on the export of non-basmati white rice, which has a 25 per cent share in the rice export basket, will lower prices in the domestic market, benefiting consumers, the Food Ministry said last month.

Asked about the wheat import plan, Chopra said the government has no such plan. Some media reports have said the government has been negotiating with Russia to import wheat at discounted rates in a government-to-government deal.