Amid speculation over resumption of wheat sales under the open market sales scheme (OMSS) from next month, the Centre is unlikely to to start the sales before the formation of the next government, which coincides with the completion of the current season’s procurement.

“There is no proposal to resume the sales for now. Since the policy decision on OMSS is already valid until July 31, a decision will be taken in due course whenever there will be a necessity. Secondly, the wheat prices are stable and the crop is still arriving,” said an official source. Even flour millers are comfortable with their own procurement, the source said.

The Food Ministry conveyed its approval to the Food Corporation of India (FCI) earlier this month on the policy for sale of foodgrain (wheat and rice) stocks in excess of buffer stocking norms, under open market sale scheme (OMSS). However, the policy will be valid until July 31 with effect from April 1. A review will be done in July based on the actual wheat procurement and the price will be fixed for remaining period of the next fiscal, Food Ministry sources said.

Ministry to decide timing

According to the OMSS policy for wheat, which is valid between April and July, the government has allowed the Food Corporation of India (FCI) to sell the grain to private parties through e-auction at pan India one reserve price of ₹2,275/quintal for under relaxed specification (URS) variety, which is same as current minimum support price (MSP), and ₹2,300/quintal for fair and average quality (FAQ) type of all crop years.

However, the timing of the sales will be decided by the Food Ministry, the policy said. It further stipulated that no sale would be undertaken during the procurement period in the wheat procuring states such as Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. The procurement season will conclude by June 30.

The Centre’s wheat buffer stock, maintained by the Food Corporation of India (FCI), dropped to 25.96 million tonnes (mt) as of May 1, against 29.03 mt year-ago. This is also lower than 30.35 mt recorded on May 1, 2022 when the government could buy only 18.79 mt in whole of 2022-23 season due to lower output and higher price in open market. The current stock is also lowest since May 1, 2008 when it was 17.69 mt.

Drop in stocks

There has been a considerable decline in wheat stock from Central Pool after the government started distributing double the quantity under the public distribution system following the Covid pandemic in 2020.

Under the retail sale scheme, designed to check inflationary trends in food economy, the Food Ministry has decided to allocate wheat at ₹23/kg till July 31 to semi-government and cooperative organisations like Nafed, NCCF and Kendriya Bhandar. The sale will be done only if these organisations agree to sell the atta (after converting from the wheat) and rice at the maximum retail price (MRP) fixed by the government. Currently, the MRP of atta is fixed at ₹27.50/kg.