Centre relaxes procurement norms for shrivelled, broken wheat grains

The Centre on Sunday announced a major relaxation in the Fair and Average Quality (FAQ) norms of wheat by raising the maximum permissible limit of “shrivelled and broken grains” to 18 per cent from the existing 6 per cent.

The move is aimed at providing relief to Punjab and Haryana farmers during the ongoing rabi marketing season.

A statement issued by the Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution said: “The Centre has decided to allow FCI to procure wheat in Punjab and Haryana, including UT of Chandigarh, for central pool by relaxing the FAQ of shrivelled and broken grains up to 18 per cent without any value cut. This decision will reduce the hardship of farmers and avoid distress sale of wheat.”

The move comes after the two states wrote to the Centre, seeking relaxation in the Uniform Specifications of Wheat for RMS 2022-23. They had urged the Centre to raise the maximum permissible limit of shrivelled and broken grains to 20 per cent.

According to the Food Ministry, Central teams were deputed in Punjab and Haryana in April-May to collect very large sized samples from mandis, which were later analysed in FCI labs. “The results indicated presence of shrivelled and broken grains in varying percentages and beyond FAQ norms,” the statement said.

“The emergence of shrivelled grains is a natural phenomenon appearing as a result of extreme heat wave that enveloped the northern part of the country in March. These adverse weather conditions are beyond the control of farmers and hence, they should not be penalised for such natural occurrence,” it said.


Why quality norms have been relaxed

The move to relax the FAQ norms is significant in view of the expected fall in the procurement of wheat during the current year. According to the Food Ministry, 195 lakh metric tonnes (LMT) of wheat is expected to be procured during the current rabi season, which is less than half as compared to 433 LMT procured last year. According to the ministry, 180 LMT wheat has been procured till May 14, much lower than 367 LMT procured during the corresponding period in 2021-22.

“Accordingly, the change in texture of the grain deserves to be sympathetically considered by government to ease the hardship of farmers. Thus, suitable relaxation in FAQ norms would protect interests of farmers and promote efficient procurement and distribution of food grains,” it said.

Early onset of summer (by end of March 2022) has resulted in “shrivelled grains and resultant drop in yield per acre in Punjab and Haryana”, the statement added.

Punjab and Haryana are major contributors to national food security. A quantity of 132.22 lakh metric tonnes (LMT) from Punjab and 83.93 LMT from Haryana was procured in the last rabi marketing season. However, this year, only 94.69 LMT from Punjab and 40.72 LMT from Haryana has been procured till May 10. In Punjab and Haryana, FCI and state agencies procure wheat directly from farmers through arhtiyas.

Meanwhile, the Centre has extended the last date of wheat procurement till May 31. “The Centre has asked wheat-producing states and UTs with procurement closing dates expiring early to continue procurement till May 31,” the ministry said in a separate statement.

The ministry has also directed FCI to continue with wheat procurement under the central pool, the statement said.

“The extended period is expected to benefit farmers,” the statement said.

The ministry said: “The wheat procurement under central pool has been less this season as compared to last year as the market price is higher than the MSP, wherein farmers have been selling their produce to private traders.”

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