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Amid farm stir, Centre to procure wheat early

Feb 26, 2024 12:58 AM IST

Early sowing in many regions and cool conducive weather have prompted the government to estimate a bumper harvest of the grain

NEW DELHI The Union government has issued instructions to states to start procurement of wheat at minimum support prices from March 1, earlier than usual, and transfer payments to farmers’ accounts within 48 hours, a top official said on Sunday.

Early sowing in many regions and cool conducive weather have prompted the government to estimate a bumper harvest of the grain at 114 million tonne in 2024-25. (HT file)
Early sowing in many regions and cool conducive weather have prompted the government to estimate a bumper harvest of the grain at 114 million tonne in 2024-25. (HT file)

The decisions come amid massive protests by farmers, who have assembled on the capital’s doorsteps demanding legal guarantee of higher crop prices, among other demands. Procurement refers to the government’s buying of farm produce at federally fixed floor prices.

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Early sowing in many regions and cool conducive weather have prompted the government to estimate a bumper harvest of the grain at 114 million tonne in 2024-25. In the 2023-24 winter cropping season, the government had purchased 26.1 million tonne against a target estimate of 34.1 million tonne.

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The government doesn’t foresee any disruptions to the procurement process due to the farmers’ uprising that has gripped the food bowl state of Punjab, according to food secretary Sanjeev Chopra. It hopes to procure more wheat from Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Bihar, states where procurement lagged in the last winter season.

“I am hopeful the issues will be resolved much in advance of the procurement season. I don’t think it (the farmers’ protest) will have an impact on wheat procurement (in Punjab and Haryana). A dialogue is going on,” Chopra said.

The government has increased the number of procurement centres and instructed the state governments to start procurement early so that farmers don’t have to travel long distances. It has also decided to make payments to farmers within 48 hours of buying their produce. Higher procurement will drive up government stocks, which are currently at a seven-year low.

“The condition of wheat is excellent and there are no forecasts of heatwaves,” an agriculture ministry official said, declining to be named. “About 80% of the grain sown this time are heat-tolerant varieties.”

In some regions, wheat arrives at markets earlier, but procurement starts from April 1. “This leads us to miss some procurement in the initial 15-20 days of arrival in the market,” Chopra said. “Now we have given freedom to states to fix the procurement dates.”

In the previous rabi or winter season, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar procured 214,981 and 589 tonnes of wheat as against a target of 3.5 and 1 million tonnes, respectively, while Rajasthan procured 438,000 tonnes.

ALSO READ- Noida traffic likely to be affected tomorrow as farmers to protest with tractor march: Report

The procurement season comes in the midst of a tense farmers’ uprising that has gripped the Punjab-Haryana border, which could get bigger with more factions sealing talks to join the protests. A proposed march to Delhi by thousands of protesting farmers is set to be delayed further and farmers have said they will announce their course of action on February 29.

Farm unions said they won’t back down and held talks to forge unity between various factions, forming an 11-member team, a prominent leader said, after marathon discussions, on condition of anonymity.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Zia Haq reports on public policy, economy and agriculture. Particularly interested in development economics and growth theories.

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