Rice procurement across the country has reached 44.15 million tonnes (mt) as of March 5 after the 2023-24 season began from October 1. This is 7 per cent lower from 47.55 mt year-on-year (YoY). However, considering that the kharif season’s production of rice has been estimated at 111.46 mt this year, the current procurement has already reached near 40 per cent of output and more purchases may not be desirable for the Government as it may create a shortage in the open market, experts said.

According to the latest official data, rice procurement in Chhattisgarh, which ended on February 4, has reached 7.4 mt against 5.86 mt last year, while in Madhya Pradesh it ended at 2.82 mt, lower from 3.09 mt last year.

Procurement target raised

As the Food Corporation of India (FCI) needs about 41 mt rice annually to run all the government’s welfare schemes, the Centre was very confident of buying a good amount of rice in January-March to cover the deficit of 14 per cent until December 31. With this robust procurement, the Government has now marginally raised the procurement target to 53.43 mt from 52.13 mt from kharif crop, sources said.

The government had purchased a total of 56.87 mt of rice in 2022-23 from all kharif, rabi and zaid seasons.

The Agriculture Ministry last week released the crop production estimates for the 2023-24 crop year (July-June) where rice production from both kharif and rabi seasons combined is predicted one per cent lower at 123.82 mt against 125.52 mt in 2022-23. The estimates have not included the zaid crop, which is sown after the rabi harvest. In 2022-23, rice production from zaid season was 10.24 mt.

Key to food security

Rice procurement is key to the government food security programme as it had substituted wheat in the public distribution programme at many States in 2021-22 when there was a huge drop in procurement of wheat. Concerned over 14-15 per cent inflation (y-o-y) in rice, the government has been holding auctions every week to offload in the open market, though the offtake is very poor. Besides, the government has started selling Bharat rice in 10 kg bag at ₹29/kg across the country from a month back.

Procurement in Punjab, Haryana and other northern States got completed in December while in western Uttar Pradesh it ended on January 31 and in eastern UP on February 29. The FCI has procured 12.41 mt in Punjab, which is 2 per cent higher from last year’s 12.19 mt and in Haryana it is 3.94 mt against 3.95 mt in 2022-23. The target in Punjab was 12.2 mt and in Haryana was 4 mt this year.

In western Uttar Pradesh, the Centre has procured 1.12 mt of rice against 1.45 mt a year ago and in eastern UP it is 2.48 mt against 2.94 mt last year. The official purchase in entire Uttar Pradesh has been recorded at 3.6 mt, down from 4.39 mt in 2022-23.

Huge drop in AP

In Telangana, the rice purchase ended lower at 3.17 mt against 4.36 mt. Kharif season’s rice procurement in Odisha, which will continue until March 31, has reached 3.89 mt as of March 5, lower from 4.17 mt a year ago. There is a huge drop in Andhra Pradesh, where too procurement will end this month, which stood at 11.34 mt this season against 2.1 mt a year ago. Exporters are reported to be very active in both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.

West Bengal, a leading producer, too, has reported a drop in procurement at 0.74 mt from 1.47 mt year-ago. Purchases in the State will continue until May 31.