New Delhi: Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said on 29 March that the government had not imposed any restrictions on private traders, including multinational companies, to buy wheat from farmers.
In an apparent denial of reports to the contrary that appeared in certain sections of the media, the minister asserted that farmers were at liberty to sell their wheat to whomsoever they like, but added that the government will monitor the purchasers’ stock positions to check hoarding.
News reports had pointed out that private players were not being allowed to procure wheat from farmers in Madhya Pradesh and Punjab, although they were offering substantially more than the support price of Rs850 a quintal offered by the government. The restriction was apparently imposed to enable the state-run Food Corporation of India meet its procurement target of 15.1 million tonnes for this year.
Dismissing the suggestion, Pawar nevertheless called upon private traders to furnish details about their stock position if their procurements exceed 50,000 tonnes in a year.
“If the Food Corporation of India, which is the nodal procurement agency, discloses its stock position, there is no reason why a similar policy should not be followed by the private traders,” he said, adding FCI had a system of disclosing its stock position on the website.
According to industry officials, the government had urged upon the private traders not to enter the wheat market for a few weeks till its procurement gains momentum.
“As Agriculture Minister, I want the farmer to get a better price. But at the same time, there should be no hoarding and consumers should not be exploited,” Pawar said.
On production estimates, he said overall position of wheat is good and the output in 2006-07 would cross 72.6 million tonnes against 68.5 million tonnes last year.
With inputs from Press Trust of India