Wheat procurement by the Food Corporation of India (FCI) for the central pool has reached 26.12 million tonnes (mt) as of May 19 against 26.13 mt in the same period a year ago, official data showed. The procurement is expected to cross last year’s 26.2 mt as a few more days are left for the government purchase to end. However, if may close below the government’s “official estimate” of 37.29 mt fixed for this year.

The government purchased 26.19 mt of wheat in 2023-24, 18.79 mt in 2022-23 and a record 43.34 mt in 2021-22. Maximum wheat of over 90 per cent is procured during April-May, and it gets normally over by mid-June, depending on harvesting in the States. However, the lower procurement in a bumper production year has been attributed by experts to farmers’ deciding to hold back the stock with them in anticipation of higher rates in winter.

Extending procurement

Due to lower-than-estimated procurement in Haryana, the government last week extended the purchase period by a week until May 22. However, as arrivals have almost dried, the procurement may not see any significant jump in the next three days, State officials said. Haryana has contributed 7.14 mt of wheat to the Central Pool, so far this year against 6.32 mt a year ago, up by 13 per cent. The State had fixed the procurement target at 8 mt for this year.

The procurement in Punjab has reached 12.4 mt against 12.1 mt a year ago, up by 2.5 per cent whereas the target is to buy 13 mt. State government officials were earlier expecting the purchase to exceed the target and reach 13.5 mt and now hope to meet the target. The wheat purchase in the State will end by May 31.

MP: A concern

The low level of official procurement in Madhya Pradesh has been a concern for the State government as well as for the Centre. Despite the initial lead and the State government’s announcement to pay ₹125/quintal bonus to wheat farmers, the total procurement has reached 4.74 mt so far, down by 33 per cent from 7.08 mt a year ago. The Centre had estimated buying 8 mt from Madhya Pradesh in the entire season this year, which is unlikely as the arrival has almost stopped and the government bought less than 0.3 mt during the past week.

Sources said an official team of the Centre has been discussing with the State government to find out the reasons for the “unexpected” and massive drop in procurement in Madhya Pradesh.

In Rajasthan the procurement has been reported higher at 0.92 mt against 0.4 mt a year ago and in Uttar Pradesh at 0.9 mt against 0.21 mt a year ago. The higher procurement in UP and Rajasthan has been due to low level of purchases in the entire season during 2023-24. While UP had contributed a total 0.22 mt of wheat, Rajasthan bought 0.44 mt for the Central Pool in 2023-24 fiscal. The Centre has estimated to buy 6 mt of wheat from Uttar Pradesh and 2 mt from Rajasthan this year.