While retail food inflation soared to a six-year high of 14.12 percent in December last year posing a challenge amid slowdown in the economy, the government faces a challenge managing its surplus foodgrain stock which has reached a record high of 75.51 million metric tonnes as on January 1, 2020.
The stocks are likely to increase further.
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For, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmer’s Welfare, as on January 16, 2020, wheat has been sown this rabi season in 330.20 lakh hectares — 33.23 lakh ha more than last year (296.98 lakh ha) and the highest ever since 1950-51, the year from which data is available. Earlier, the highest area under wheat was recorded 314.70 ha during 2014-15.
“Higher area (under wheat) is reported from the states of Madhya Pradesh (19.07 lakh ha), Gujarat (5.61 lakh ha), Rajasthan (4.49 lakh ha), Maharashtra (3.86 lakh ha), West Bengal (0.74 lakh ha) Jharkhand (0.50 lakh ha), Karnataka (0.40 lakh ha) and Himachal Pradesh ( 0.40 lakh ha)”, according to a Ministry report released Friday. Less area is reported from the states of Bihar (0.64 lakh ha), Uttar Pradesh (0.43 lakh ha), Jammu & Kashmir (0.31 lakh ha), Chhattisgarh (0.20 lakh ha), Haryana (0.18 lakh ha) and Punjab (0.12 lakh ha).
The report shows that during current rabi season, the area under pulses has been reported as 157.33 lakh ha — 7.80 lakh ha more than the last year (149.53 lakh ha). Higher area under pulses is reported from Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Bihar. However, less area is reported from Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, West Bengal, Assam, Odisha, Haryana, Meghalaya and Tamil Nadu.
The area under coarse cereals, too, has reported a substantial increase — from 46.88 lakh ha last rabi season to 53.19 lakh ha now. However, the area coverage of oilseeds is just marginally up, from 79.17 lakh ha in the last rabi season to 79.25 lakh ha now.
In all, an area of 641 lakh ha has been covered by rabi crops in 2019-20, 50.75 lakh ha higher than the area last year.
This substantial increase suggests higher production which will add to the existing surplus foodgrain stock. The Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution is struggling to manage the overflowing granaries. It has even written to the Ministry of External Affairs to take the surplus foodgrain and donate it as humanitarian aid to other countries.
The latest data available on the Food Corporation of India (FCI) website shows the total foodgrains stock (including unmilled rice) in the central pool as on January 1, 2020 is about 75.51 million tonnes which is highest ever. It is more than three times the 21.4 million tons stock required to maintain operational stock as well as strategic reserve as on January 1 each year.
According to latest buffer norms, in place since July 2017, the Government has to maintain a stock of at least 21.04 million tonnes of foodgrains as on April 1; 41.12 million as on July 1; 30.7 million as on October 1 and 21.41 million as on January 1.
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