The Indian Government has plans to purchase 34.1 million tonnes (mt) of wheat in the oncoming rabi marketing season starting April after States informed it that the procurement may be met this year considering current crop conditions.

“It is not a target but based on what States have informed the Centre,” a Food Ministry official said, after a day-long meeting of States’ Food Ministers and secretaries on Wednesday. However, he clarified that the open-ended procurement policy will continue and the government will buy whatever quantity farmers want to sell during the procurement season, starting April 1.

The development this year assumes significance on the backdrop of last year’s experience when the government could buy only 18.79 mt against a target of 44.4 mt. The lower procurement led to a ban on wheat export in May 22 and it continues. Also, it reallocated grain distributions through ration shops by cutting wheat quota for the beneficiaries under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) and replacing it with rice.

Sources said the target has been set at a conservative level as the Food Ministry does not want to take any chance with the Agriculture Ministry’s production estimate. The Agriculture Ministry has forecast a record high of 112.18 million tonnes of wheat production during the current crop year to June.

UP, Punjab plans

Uttar Pradesh, the largest wheat-growing state, is confident of procuring 5.6 mt of the cereal this year out of an estimated output of 37 mt, official sources said. Punjab, the most significant contributor to Central Pool stock, is confident of buying 13.2 mt out of 16.5 mt estimated production. The procurement last year was 9.65 mt in Punjab and 0.34 mt in UP.

“We have told the Centre that exports need not be opened if procurement target is to be met,” said a State government official requesting anonymity. He also said the Centre has assured them that the ban is unlikely to be lifted before the end of procurement.

Before the inaugural address, Food Secretary Sanjeev Chopra, on the sidelines of the conference, said the procurement in Gujarat is scheduled to start from March 20 and in Madhya Pradesh from March 25 as the fresh crop has started arriving in mandis. Gujarat officials said the State will procure at least 0.15 mt this year out of 0.2 mt targetted and depending on the crop size, the procurement may exceed. State government has estimated wheat production at 2-2.2 mt in Gujarat.