Wheat procurement reached 25.30 million tonnes (mt) as of May 12 against 25.682 mt a year ago, official data show. This is far away from the government’s “official” procurement target of 37.29 mt fixed for this year. Experts wonder if it will reach last year’s actual purchases.

The government had purchased 26.20 mt of wheat in 2023-24, 18.79 mt in 2022-23 and a record 43.34 mt in 2021-22. The maximum quantity of wheat of over 90 per cent is procured during April-May, and it gets normally over by mid-June, depending on harvesting in States. However, the lower procurement in a bumper production year has been attributed by experts to farmers’ deciding to keep stock with them in anticipation of higher rates during winter.

The purchase in Madhya Pradesh has dropped 35 per cent to 44.47 lakh tonnes (lt) from 68.85 lt, but it is higher at 7.65 lt against 3.33 lt in Rajasthan and at 8.17 lt from 1.88 lt in Uttar Pradesh. In both MP and Rajasthan, the State governments are paying ₹125/quintal bonus over and above the minimum support price of ₹2,275/quintal to purchase wheat from farmers.

Quality norms eased

The higher procurement in UP and Rajasthan was due to low level of purchases in the entire season during 2023-24. While UP had contributed a total 2.2 lt, Rajasthan bought 4.38 lt of wheat for Central Pool in 2023-24 fiscal.

The Centre has set a target to buy 60 lt of wheat from Uttar Pradesh, 80 lt from Madhya Pradesh and 20 lt from Rajasthan. The Centre on April 23 relaxed quality specifications of wheat in MP and Rajasthan so that there may be some improvement in the purchases.

The procurement data show that wheat procurement in Punjab has reached 122 lt until May 12, as much as 2 per cent up from 119.89 lt a year ago. Though the initial target was 130 lt for Punjab, the State government hopes to buy 135 lt this year due to bumper output, helped by higher yield. Wheat procurement in Haryana, where target is 80 lt, has reached 70.51 lt, up 12 per cent from 62.75 lt year-ago.

“The government should have announced a bonus in UP which could have helped it to buy more grain from the State as farmers know that wheat will be sold above ₹2,400/quintal once the procurement ends. There is little chance of government selling wheat at lower than MSP level as it has hardly any stock to tide over any crisis in the off season after buffer stock dropped to a 16-year low on April 1 this year,” said an industry expert.