QCI to conduct random sampling of Bharat rice, atta and pulses

The current mandate for third-party validation of Bharat atta and rice is to ensure correct prices, quality and seamless supply chain. (Photo: Mint)
The current mandate for third-party validation of Bharat atta and rice is to ensure correct prices, quality and seamless supply chain. (Photo: Mint)

Summary

  • The subsidized food grains, meant for the poor, are supplied to states under the National Food Security Act and other welfare schemes.

New Delhi: Subsidized rice, wheat-flour and pulses that account for a substantial portion of government spending will be checked randomly for quality and quantity to ensure there is no diversion or adulteration, a senior official said.

The checks, part of the government's track and trace plan, will be conducted by the Quality Council of India (QCI) at various points along the supply chain.

The move aligns with the government’s substantial expenditure on food subsidies, pegged at 2.05 trillion for the coming financial year and 2.12 trillion in FY24, higher than the budgeted estimate of 1.97 trillion for the current year.

The subsidized food grains, meant for the poor, are supplied to states under the National Food Security Act, or NFSA, and other welfare schemes.

Mint last month reported that the government was planning to track and trace Bharat rice, atta and pulses for their quality in collaboration with QCI, a move aimed at nipping the practice of unscrupulous traders mixing grit with grain.

“QCI made a presentation to the IMC (inter-ministerial committee) last month on collaboration for system strengthening for Bharat brand subsidized products, and briefly explained the various areas of intervention required for holistic vetting of sale of Bharat atta and rice by the Kendriya Bhandar, NAFED (National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Ltd) and NCCF (National Cooperative Consumers' Federation of India Ltd)," the official said.

“To ensure that public resources are being put to proper use, an agency such as QCI may be onboarded for third party validation."

The current mandate for third-party validation of Bharat atta and rice is to ensure correct prices, quality and seamless supply chain.

“After a long deliberation, it was decided that QCI will engage for random sampling of Bharat rice and atta at different nodes of the supply chain and seek feedback from end-users about price and quality until June 2024. The three agencies will share the required information, including details about their respective supply chain logistics, with QCI so that the third-party validation process may be operationalized at the earliest to ensure that there is no diversion."

QCI will have login access to the three agencies’ data on millers and the amounts allocated to them, which can be used to ensure seamless last-mile supply of these subsidized products.

Since an objective assessment of Bharat products is already in place through the quality control division of the food and public distribution department, the QCI may supplement this with a subjective assessment of quality as perceived by consumers. The food department clarified that this scheme is valid only till June. Therefore, long-term planning, inventory management etc. may be taken as a part of a separate study that could be assigned by the agencies directly. For now, QCI may restrict itself with price, quality and whether the quantity lifted is reaching the end-consumer," the official shared.

Queries sent to the QCI, and the ministry of consumer affairs, food and public distribution remained unanswered at press time.

To provide relief to consumers from high inflation, Nafed, NCCF and Kendriya Bhandar are selling Bharat Dal at a subsidized price of 60 per kg, flour at 27.50 per kg and rice at 29.

While India's food inflation has moderated, rice is the only product in the cereal basket that continued to weigh on the consumer price index.

In January, food inflation, comprising nearly half the overall consumer price basket, was 8.3%, down from 9.53% in December 2023. However, rice inflation was 13% in January against 12.3% in December and 10.4% in January 2023. Wheat inflation, however, has significantly moderated from 25% in January 2023 to 4.7% in December and then to 2.3% in January 2024.

“The ‘track and trace’ initiative is not because of any complaints received but a proactive measure to ensure that the benefits of government subsidies reach the intended recipients efficiently and transparently," another official said earlier.

QCI, which is an autonomous body of the department for promotion of industry and internal trade in the commerce ministry, introduced the concept of quality in remote parts of the country so that products from these areas also become acceptable in Indian and international markets. India’s national accreditation system under the QCI was ranked 5th in the world in the Global Quality Infrastructure Index 2021.

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