With the wheat procure-ment process in Punjab ending yesterday, it is apparent that the shortfall for the public distribution system will again, like last year, be much higher than originally envisaged. So, the government is now busy working on import deals to close the gap. There does seem to be some mismanagement. Production estimates by the agriculture ministry seem to go quite wrong, which derails the buffer stock planning that the food ministry should be doing. By reacting to shortfalls later than it should, the pressures to compromise on both price and quality norms of imports increase.
One reason the official agencies were unable to buy enough wheat from farmers is that they did not match the price offered by private firms. It remains to be seen if imports will be the cheaper option. Given the enormity of the challenge and potential for conflict of interest, it is curious that the UPA insists on having Sharad Pawar head both ministries.