On the back of a significant increase in rice procurement from the rabi crop in Telangana, the total procurement in the 2023-24 season (October-September) was 47.03 million tonnes (mt) until April 30 against 49.88 mt a year ago, down by 6 per cent.

Experts said the fall could have been even more this year as there has been 38 per cent drop in purchases in West Bengal, a leading producer.

However, as the government needs about 40-41 mt annually to run all the welfare programmes including the obligation under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), even if procurement reaches around 51 mt by the end of the season, there will still be a carry over of 10 mt for next year.

This year’s target

This year’s target is to buy 52.485 mt from the kharif-grown crop and 10.315 mt from the rabi season. The current procurement of rice until April 30 includes 46.132 mt from the kharif-grown crop, which is 6 per cent lower from 49.192 mt a year ago and 0.902 mt from the rabi crop, which is 32 per cent higher from 0.685 mt a year ago.

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

“The annual demand for rice could be lower if there is a restoration of wheat allocation under the Public Distribution System (PDS), which was cut in 2020. The situation will be clear after wheat procurement ends next month,” said an official source.

The Food Secretary last month had said that the government would consider restoring the wheat allocation under PDS if there is a bumper procurement of the grain.

Telangana has contributed 0.389 mt and Andhra Pradesh 0.214 mt of rabi rice to the Central Pool, up from 0. 137 mt and 0.208 mt, respectively, from the year-ago period. But, in Tamil Nadu, the rice procurement from the rabi harvest has dropped to 0.247 mt from 0.323 mt a year ago. The Centre, though, has achieved the target of 0.15 mt procurement of kharif rice in Tamil Nadu, the target of 0.8 mt from rabi crop may not be met, officials said.

The procurement of kharif rice will continue until May 31 in West Bengal and up to June 30 in Assam, whereas in all other States it is already over.

Chattisgarh, the saviour

During kharif rice procurement, against a target of 2.5 mt in Andhra Pradesh, only 1.44 mt and against 0.5 mt in Telangana 3.172 mt could be purchased, resulting in a combined deficit of nearly 0.29 mt. Similarly, there was 0.9 mt deficit in Uttar Pradesh against the target, nearly 0.5 mt in Odisha, 0.3 mt in Maharashtra and nearly 0.6 mt in Madhya Pradesh.

But, Chhattisgarh contributed a record 8.3 mt of rice, more than the State’s production of 7.82 mt, to the Central Pool, forcing the Centre to buy the grain amid a dip in purchases in many States. Initially, the government had set a target to buy 6.1 mt from the State keeping in view the total procurement of 5.865 mt registered during entire 2022-23.

The Agriculture Ministry has estimated the country’s rice production from both kharif and rabi seasons combined to be 1 per cent lower at 123.82 million tonnes (mt) during 2023-24 crop year (July-June) from 125.52 mt in 2022-23. The estimates have not included the zaid crop, which is sown after rabi harvest. In 2022-23, rice production from zaid season was 10.24 mt.