Sufficient stocks of wheat and rice available: Centre

Food Secretary says curbs on exports have helped to bring down the prices of wheat and flour; more stocks of the grain available for domestic consumption and public distribution system

Regulation of wheat and atta exports has helped control their prices, the Union Food and Public Distribution Ministry said here on Wednesday. Food and Public Distribution Secretary Sanjeev Chopra told presspersons that the increase in the prices came down from 15% to 5% after the regulation.

Mr. Chopra said the Centre decided to stop open market sales when wheat prices were going up. “Now, more stock is available for domestic consumption and public distribution system. As a result, the prices, compared to the prices in May 2022, have came down about 7%. If MSP [minimum support price] is factored in, the increase will be about 5%,” he said adding that an inter-ministerial committee met on a weekly basis to monitor the situation.

Asked if the Centre would lift the ban on export, he said the primary concern of the government was food security of the country. Adequate stocks were available due to the measures taken by the Centre. “This is not a steep rise,” he said.

Mr. Chopra said that even after meeting additional allocation for the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana, the National Food Security Act and other welfare schemes, the country had sufficient stocks of wheat and rice under the central pool over and above the buffer norms. “As on November 15, a quantity of 201 lakh tonnes of wheat and 140 lakh tonnes of rice is available in the central pool,” he said.

The Secretary added that procurement of paddy in the kharif marketing season (KMS) of 2022-23 had started and around 277.37 lakh tonnes (185.93 lakh tonnes of rice) had been procured up to November, 21, which was higher than the procurement during the same period last year. He said 18.51 lakh farmers had benefited as ₹54,559.85 crore had been paid to them directly into their accounts.

“It is expected that procurement of paddy in KMS 2022-23 across the country will remain normal. The rainfall this year has been fairly good in the country and the production of paddy is expected to remain normal,” he said. The Centre was expecting to procure 775.73 lakh tonnes of paddy (521 lakh tonnes of rice) in this season.

On the reduction in wheat procurement during the last rabi season, he said it was due to an increase in market price and demand-supply mismatch on account of the geopolitical situation.