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Shrivelled wheat issue: Centre relaxes quality norms for wheat procurement in Punjab, Haryana

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Punjab and Haryana governments had requested the Centre for relaxation in quality norms for wheat in the ongoing 2022-23 marketing year (April-March). The limit of shrivelled and broken grains is 6 per cent and relaxation was sought up to 20 per cent.

In a relief to farmers, the Centre on Sunday said it has relaxed quality norms for procurement of wheat in Punjab and Haryana in the ongoing 2022-23 marketing year.

Union food ministry, in a statement, said the Fair and Average Quality (FAQ) of wheat with shrivelled and broken grains has been relaxed up to 18 per cent without any value cut.

Nodal agency Food Corporation of India (FCI) has been allowed to procure wheat at relaxed quality norms in Punjab and Haryana, including Chandigarh, it said.

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“This decision will reduce the hardship of farmers and avoid distress sale of wheat,” the ministry said.

Punjab and Haryana governments had requested the Centre for relaxation in quality norms for wheat in the ongoing 2022-23 marketing year (April-March). The limit of shrivelled and broken grains is 6 per cent and relaxation was sought up to 20 per cent.

A similar decision was also taken in 2020-21 when FAQ norms were relaxed up to 16 per cent to protect the interest of the farmers.

According to the ministry, there was presence of shrivelled and broken grains in varying percentages and beyond FAQ norms in samples collected and analysed by the central teams which visited these two states in April-May.

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 the month of March.

These adverse weather conditions are beyond the control of the farmers and hence, they should not be penalised for such natural occurrence. Accordingly, the change in texture of the grain deserves to be sympathetically considered by the 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 foodgrains,” the ministry added.

On Saturday, food secretary Sudhanshu Pandey had said the government’s wheat procurement has reached 18 million tonnes so far in the current marketing year.

It could reach 18.5 million tonnes maximum, much lower than the earlier estimate of 19.5 million tonnes and initial target of 44.4 million tonnes for this year, he said.

In the 2021-22 marketing year, wheat procurement stood at 43.3 milion tonnes.

The fall in procurement, the ministry officials attributed, to increased private buying for export purpose and slight decline in the country’s production.

Total wheat production is expected to be 105-106 million tonnes this year, as against 109.5 million tonnes in the previous year.

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