From a state that barely made its presence felt on Indias wheat procurement map till recently,Madhya Pradesh has taken giant strides,forcing everyone to notice the turnaround.
Hardly a month into this procurement season,the state has revised its estimates by nearly a million metric tonnes,buoyed by the arrival at its mandis and reports from collectors at a recent video-conference.
MP procured a shade less than 5 million MT last year,and began with a target of 6.5 million MT on March 15,but has now increased the estimate to 7.4 million MT when the season draws to a close on May 20. If it reaches that figure,MP would have procured three times the 2.5 million MT wheat needed to meet its PDS requirement. The Food Corporation of India had to earlier arrange for wheat for the PDS beneficiaries. Following the success,it has now decentralised procurement in MP,which means the state procures,stores and issues foodgrains under the Targeted Public Distribution Scheme.
MPs success story has largely to do with the bonus of Rs 100,which it gives over and above the MSP. This year,it is procuring wheat at Rs 1,385,the highest rate in the country. No wonder,wheat growers have been making a beeline for the government procurement centres,bypassing traders and middlemen.
Known for its premium quality of wheat,the state used to attract private players,including multinationals,when the government was not active in procuring. The private players have now moved to other states where they can buy cheap. Till a few years ago,storage capacity was never a problem for the government because it simply did not procure enough. The increased volumes have,however,exposed the shortage. This year,authorities claim,the government has added permanent and temporary storage space.
Despite being one of the eight officially declared backward states in the country,MP has given its entire procurement process a touch of technology this time. Farmers had been asked to register themselves in advance and are getting SMS alerts on when to turn up at the procurement centre. According to Food and Civil Supplies Commissioner Deepali Rastogi,as many as 14.7 lakh farmers had registered.
Till Wednesday,2.1 lakh farmers had sold 1.85 million MT wheat worth Rs 2,550 crore. Officials monitoring procurement can give details instantly with the process being computerised.
Wheat will also be procured from the tribal population who grow it in forest areas. The government had earlier announced May 1 as the procurement date but had to revise the schedule after Anurag Modi of Shramik Adivasi Sangh moved the High Court saying the procurement policy was discriminatory towards tribals.
Modi had argued that the forest dwellers did not have the capacity to store wheat for that long and would be forced to approach middlemen to meet their immediate financial requirement.