Chandigarh The slow movement of wheat and rice from Punjab is likely to impact the state’s foodgrain procurement system. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has asked the state government to clear wheat stock of 2018-19 rabi season; failure to do so would mean that the Cash Credit Limit (CCL) for wheat procurement that starts from April 1 would not be released, the central bank has warned.
The quantity of wheat that the RBI wants moved is 40 lakh tonne (2018-19 rabi season); in addition, another 50 lakh tonne of wheat of 2019-20 season remains stocked in the state’s godowns. The CCL received for procurement of rabi crop of 2018-19 still shows a gap of ₹9,000 crore, which the RBI wants settled. The state food and civil supplies department received the RBI communication last week.
Even as the notice has come, the state food department is planning to make a fresh proposal for CCL of ₹30,000 crore for procurement of wheat in the forthcoming season. Authorities expect arrival of at least 135 lakh tonne with a MSP of ₹1,925 per quintal.
State says movement
not under its control
The Punjab government’s major worry is that the monthly movement of foodgrain from the state to consumer states has dipped to an all-time low of 12 lakh tonne against the previous average of 18 lakh tonne. In its plea to the Union food and public distribution ministry, Punjab’s food and civil supplies department has said that the movement of stock was not under its control. “It is the Food Corporation of India (FCI’s) mandate to move foodgrain stock out of Punjab,” the department has said.
“It is a cause of worry for Punjab that for no fault of ours, we have been pushed in a tough situation. We procure foodgrain on the behalf of the Centre. What can we do if it is not lifted by the FCI,” said state food and civil supplies minister Bharat Bhushan Ashu.
State food department principal secretary KAP Sinha told HT that the state had got extension from the Centre till March 2021 for clearing wheat stock of 2018-19. Notwithstanding his claim, there is no space in the state’s godowns to store the wheat crop that will be harvested in April. To ensure there is storage, the state food department has started building covered area plinth storage of 33.5-lakh tonne capacity.
Punjab has been pushed in a tough situation, even as it is not our fault. We procure foodgrain on the behalf of the Centre. What can we do if it is not lifted by the FCI?
Bharat Bhushan Ashu, food
and civil supplies minister