Despite efforts at disposing of surplus foodgrains – including by distributing these free under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) and a special scheme for migrant labourers returning to their home states – wheat and rice stocks in the Central pool have registered marginal decline.
At 94.42 million tonnes (mt) as on July 1, total stocks were below last month’s all-time-high of 97.27 mt, but still 2.3 times the operational-cum-strategic reserve requirement of 41.12 mt for this date. The 94.42 mt comprised 54.99 mt wheat and 27.17 mt rice. In addition, Food Corporation of India (FCI) and state government agencies held 18.3 mt of un-milled paddy, whose rice equivalent, at an outturn ratio of 67 per cent, worked out to 12.26 mt. Outturn is the share of rice extracted from paddy grains after removal of the outer husk and inner bran layers.
For July 1, the normative minimum stocks to run the targeted public distribution system (TPDS) and other welfare schemes, plus maintain a strategic reserve over and above that, are 27.58 mt of wheat and 13.54 mt of rice. As against this, actual stocks amounted to 54.99 mt and 39.43 mt (including rice from un-milled paddy), respectively.
The current higher stock levels compared to last year (see table) are notwithstanding measures taken for liquidation, especially in the context of widespread economic distress following the coronavirus-induced lockdown.
As against 62.19 mt grain offtake from public godowns in 2019-20 and 65.91 mt for 2018-19, the Narendra Modi government has allocated a total quantity of 92.7 mt for this fiscal. That includes 55.3 mt under TPDS (beneficiary families are entitled to a monthly per-person ration of 5 kg wheat or rice at Rs 2-3/kg); 3.6 mt under Mid Day Meals, Integrated Child Development Services and other regular welfare schemes; 32 mt under PMGKAY; 0.8 mt for migrant labourers; and one mt of additional Covid-related allocations. The 5 kg extra grain per month to 80 crore persons under PMGKAY (during April-November) and 8 crore returning migrant labourers (for May-June) are being given free of cost.
But these measures haven’t so far resulted in any significant whittling down of public grain stocks. While TPDS and PMGKAY offtake is expected to go up in the coming months, the same under MDM/ICDS may be impacted due to schools being shut and anganwadi centres not fully operating.
Higher procurement is also a major reason for stocks remaining way above necessary buffer levels. Government agencies have procured a record 38.94 mt of wheat and 50.27 mt of rice from the 2019-20 crop. With annual procurement at 80-90 mt and normal offtake at 62-65 mt, FCI’s problem of plenty may require more PMGKAY-like interventions.