Thursday was an unusual day for wheat procurement this season as Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh recorded more procurement than arrivals at the procurement centres of various agricultural produce marketing committee (APMC) mandis.

This was because some stocks from the previous day were added in the compilation as arrivals have trickled down in these States on which the government has pinned its hope after exporters and flour millers corned the wheat grown in Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.

The total procurement of wheat as of April 21 was 11.9 million tonnes (mt) against 17.09 mt in the year-ago period, despite the fact that the government had last year introduced a token system in view of the second wave of the Covid-19. Punjab is the only State where the progressive procurement has more than the year-ago level, the first time this season. The Centre has so far purchased 6.17 mt from the State against 6.06 mt a year ago. All other States have made lower purchases than a year ago.

The Food Ministry is believed to have informed the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) that wheat procurement could be around 25 mt against the 44 mt target set for it.

The offtake of the cereal from FCI stocks under various welfare schemes was 29.47 mt — including 21 mt under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) and 6.34 mt under the open market sale scheme during 2021-22. Besides, an additional 18.72 mt was also distributed under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY). Even if the government continues the PMGKAY scheme for six months in the current fiscal as announced, the wheat requirement will be at least 32.5 mt, excluding the OMSS scheme.

The effective wheat stock with Central Pool as on April 1 was 11.5 mt, as 7.5 mt needs to be always kept for buffer. If the government is able to purchase at least 21 mt this season, it can manage, but it will find it difficult to control any surge in wheat prices.

Arrivals dip

The daily arrivals in Punjab dropped 9 per cent on Thursday from a year-ago period, while all through the past week supplies were higher, official sources said, adding some stocks from the previous day which could not be procured were also purchased. The daily procurement in Punjab was about 0.65 mt from 0.43 mt arrivals reported on April 21. On the same day, purchases in Haryana were 0.09 mt against arrival of 0.07 mt and in India’s largest wheat-producing State Uttar Pradesh only 9,182 tonnes could be purchased as arrivals were lower at 6,942 tonnes.

“If this becomes a trend, will be difficult to touch even 25 mt,” said an official involved in the procurement operation. Field level staff have informed higher officials in the Food Corporation of India (FCI) that many farmers are either selling to private traders or holding on to the crops expecting to get better rates, sources said.