Even as it is struggling to get sugar mills to discharge over Rs 12,500 crore worth of cane dues to farmers, the Yogi Adityanath-led BJP administration in Uttar Pradesh can take credit on another front: Procurement of wheat by government agencies in the state for the current 2018-19 rabi marketing season has almost touched 50 lakh tonnes (lt) and looks all set to surpass the all-time-high 50.63 lt achieved in 2012-13.
“We will be closing procurement operations on June 15. With two more days to go and also more updated information for the previous days, the total figure will cross the 2012-13 record,” a senior official from the UP Food and Civil Supplies Department told The Indian Express.
He said that the state and central agencies had procured the roughly 50 lt of wheat — from the 2017-18 crop, harvested and marketed after April – from over 10 lakh farmers. “We opened 5,000-odd centres in 75 districts of the state and ensured that the farmers got the official minimum support price (MSP) of Rs 1,735 per quintal. In addition, we gave them a Rs 10/quintal incentive for grain that was brought to the centres after proper cleaning and drying,” he added.
After the high of 2012-13, procurement of wheat from UP had almost stalled, before the present government took over in March 2017. Even during the last marketing season, official procurement touched 37 lt, as against only 8 lt during 2016-17. “This year, we set a target of procuring 50 lt out of the state’s total 350 lt wheat production. That target will be exceeded,” the official pointed out.
Meanwhile, wheat procurement by the Food Corporation of India (FCI) and state agencies across India had, based on information received as on Wednesday, reached 353.59 lt. This is again more than the original target of 320 lt, though below the 381.48 lt high of 2012-13. The higher-than-expected procurement this time comes in the wake of the country’s wheat output hitting a record 98.61 million tonnes (mt), surpassing the 2016-17 crop size of 98.51 mt.
Besides wheat, government agencies had, as on June 11, also procured 356.81 lt of rice during the ongoing 2017-18 kharif marketing season (October-September). This is already the second highest procurement after the previous season’s 381.06 lt. For rice, too, the production of 111.62 mt in 2017-18 was the highest ever achieved by the country, ahead of the previous year’s 109.70 mt.
Guaranteed MSP-based procurement of wheat and paddy has made the two grains the preferred growing option for farmers, especially in a scenario where prices of other crops have been prone to extreme market fluctuations. With roughly 36 per cent of the country’s wheat and 33 per cent of paddy being bought by government agencies, the “market” for these crops has practically ceased to be significant. That, in turn, means putting more pressure on the already stretched storage capacities of FCI and other state-run agencies.