The center has fixed a target of 10.6 million tonnes (mt). rice to be purchased during the rabi season starting April 1, taking the total target to 62.1 mt in 2022-23 (October-September), which is 45 mt more than the actual purchase in the previous year. Besides, 34.15 mt of wheat has been estimated for procurement in 2023-24.

During the first session of the conference of State Food Secretaries, held on March 1, to discuss the procurement arrangements for the ensuing season, both wheat and rabi-grown rice targets have arrived after the feedback received from states, the food ministry said Thursday.

Initially, the target was 51.8 mt from kharif-grown rice, which was revised to 52.1 mt after higher procurement in Haryana. However, because of lower purchases in Tamil Nadu, the target has since got reduced to 51.47 mt from kharif season, out of which 93 per cent has already procured. “If the target of 62.1 mt (which is over 47 per cent of total output) is achieved, it will be the highest ever rice purchase as the previous high was 60.25 mt in 2020-21,” said an official.

Also read: Kharif rice procurement up marginally from last year at 43.7 mt

“States were advised to enhance milling capacity so that milling of one season gets completed before the commencement of the next season and recycling of rice may be avoided. It is expected that seamless procurement with direct transfer of money into farmer’s account, minimum cost of transportation, and human interference-free and quick analysis of foodgrains shall be a part of the ecosystem of Food Security Management very soon,” she said.

Apart from the auto grain analyzer to be used by the Food Corporation of India (FCI), States have been advised to implement more Minimum Threshold Parameters, linking of electricity consumption of mills with the milled quantity of paddy and linking of vehicles used for transportation of foodgrain and their GPS tracking for increased efficiency and transparency by June 2023, the ministry said.

The auto grain analyzer based on artificialintelligence It can process results in a minute with high accuracy for paddy, rice, wheat, and coarse grain. It has been certified by ICAR-CIPHET of Ludhiana. The machine will help minimize human intervention, error and biases, and will also save time by giving digitally verifiable results for each grain.

The wheat procurement target this year assumes significance on the backdrop of 2022 experience when the government could buy only 18.79 mt against the target of 44.4 mt. The lower procurement led to a ban on wheat exportwhich still continues since May 2022, and also a reallocation of grains in terms of rice by cutting the wheat quota for the beneficiaries under the National Food Security Act (NFSA).

Also read: Wheat fetches higher price in fourth auction of open market sale

Sources said that the target has been set at a conservative level as the food ministry does not want to take any chance with the agriculture ministry’s production estimate. The Agriculture Ministry has already released its forecast of a record 112.18 mt of wheat production during 2022-23 crop year (July-June).

Addressing the state food ministers, Union Food Minister Piyush Goyal said that ‘SMART-PDS’ is a technological driven initiative and the need of hour, which should be implemented by all the states at the earliest. He emphasized a transparent and accountable system and urged officials to reduce human intervention and promote automation in the existing processes. He said transparency should be of utmost importance for free supply chain of foodgrains under Public Distribution System (PDS).

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