Government closely monitoring wheat prices, will take steps to arrest any abnormal rise: Food Secretary

The government on Wednesday said it is closely monitoring wheat prices and will act in case there is an abnormal increase in prices in the retail market.

Amid concerns over rising wheat prices despite export ban, Union Food Secretary Sanjeev Chopra said the stock position of wheat and rice is comfortable and well above the government’s buffer requirements.

“Rice prices are absolutely flat. Retail wheat prices have gone up by 7 per cent after the wheat ban was imposed in May and if we take into account the increase in the minimum support price (MSP), the price hike is 4- 5 per cent.” per cent,” he told reporters here.

In May, the government banned wheat exports to boost domestic supply and control prices. Its wheat procurement fell from 434.44 lakh tonnes to 187.92 lakh tonnes in marketing year 2022-23 due to decline in domestic production and aggressive procurement by private parties.

When asked if the ministry is considering any other steps like stockholding limit and open market sale scheme to check wheat prices, Chopra said, “The situation as it is now does not warrant any other measures.” Is. Abnormal rise in prices, so obviously, we will step up our order”.

In September, the government also banned the export of broken rice due to an expected decline in rice production in the wake of unseasonal rains and deficient monsoon in some eastern states.

The secretary informed that an inter-ministerial committee is monitoring the prices of essential commodities on a weekly basis. On edible oil, Chopra said international cooking oil prices are on a downward trend and hence domestic retail rates are likely to come down further.

Read also: Budget 2023 expected: Farmers bodies ask govt to lift export ban on wheat, other farm commodities

Asked whether the free ration scheme PMGKAY would be extended beyond December, the secretary said the government would take a decision at an appropriate time. He said that if the scheme is extended, the government has enough stock to meet the demand.

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Food Corporation of India (FCI) MD Ashok KK Meena said the government is regularly monitoring the price scenario of essential commodities and taking corrective measures as required.

“Compared to last month, there has been a marginal increase in the retail and wholesale prices of wheat and wholesale prices of rice. There has been negligible increase in the retail price of rice and the prices are under control,” he added.

FCI has procured 277.37 lakh tonnes of paddy (185.93 lakh tonnes of rice) till November 21 of the marketing year 2022-23 (October-September), as against 263.42 lakh tonnes of paddy procured in the year-ago period.

The procurement target for Kharif paddy crop has been kept at 775.73 lakh tonnes. He said that Rabi paddy procurement would be estimated in February-March 2023.

Meena said that as on November 15, FCI has 201 lakh tonnes of wheat and 140 lakh tonnes of rice in the central pool.

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The estimated stock position of wheat as on 1st April, 2023 is 113 lakh tonnes against the buffer norm of 75 lakh tonnes. In case of rice, the stock at the beginning of the next financial year is estimated to be 237 lakh tonnes against the buffer norm of 136 lakh tonnes.

On One Nation One Ration Card (ONORC) scheme, Food Secretary said that it has been implemented in all 36 States/UTs.

He also said that the ministry will launch an awareness campaign, especially targeting the migrant population, about the scheme to ensure all beneficiaries get the benefit of their quota under the National Food Security Act (NFSA).

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