In a clear signal that adequate wheat is available in the country, the buffer stock position for the foodgrain as on 1 April has more than doubled to reach above 50 lakh tonnes. During the same period last year, the buffer stock was 20 lakh tonnes.
In fact, the wheat stocks have surpassed the stipulated buffer stock of 40 lakh tonnes, putting the government in a comfortable position just when the procurement season has begun.
“Wheat stock with us is a little over 50 lakh tonnes as on date,” Food Corporation of India (FCI) chairman and managing director Alok Sinha said.
FCI could procure only 92.26 lakh tonnes of wheat last year against the targeted 162.07 lakh tonnes due to aggressive buying by private and multinational companies, forcing it to import 55 lakh tonnes of wheat. Sinha is hopeful of meeting the procurement target of 151 lakh tonnes, taking the total wheat availability to over 200 lakh tonnes.
“The situation will be comfortable as our requirement for public distribution scheme (PDS) and other social welfare schemes is about 160 lakh tonnes,” Sinha said.
Commenting on media reports about private traders buying wheat at much more than the support price of Rs850 per quintal, Sinha said it was not true.
“In fact, only 49,000 tonnes of wheat was lifted when, last month, FCI wanted to sell four lakh tonnes at Rs986 per quintal in the open market,” he said.
The FCI chief added that private traders would not go for huge purchases this season, unlike last year. This is because they know that FCI has adequate stocks and the country is likely to produce more wheat.
According to government estimates, wheat production is expected to be over 72.5 million tonnes as the acreage during the 2006-07 rabi season went up by over 7%.
The rabi season is the spring season harvest in India. Rabi crops are usually sown in November. They are also known as winter crops.
Sinha said higher production, competitive purchase price and lower global prices of wheat this year would make the task of wheat procurement easier for the FCI.
The procurement in major wheat producing states would be in full swing after 10 April although the process started on Sunday, Sinha said.
The fact that international prices are currently ruling at $170 (Rs7, 310) per tonne, $30 less than last year, would also deter aggressive buying by private traders, he said, while expressing optimism of meeting the procurement target.
“We have enough cash and gunny bags for smooth procurement and also adequate storage at different places,” Sinha said.