India says food situation comfortable, grains stocks seen higher than needed

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India has a comfortable food situation with an overall surplus availability of grains and stocks are expected to be higher than the minimum requirement for the next one year, a senior government official said.

Sudhanshu Pandey, Secretary, Department of Food and Public Distribution (DFPD), said that India would have stocks of 80 lakh metric tons (LMT) of wheat, well above the minimum requirement of 75 LMT, on April 1, 2023 after the requirements of various welfare schemes were met.

India would have surplus wheat even though production was expected to 1050 LMT, slightly lower than the initial estimate of 1110 LMT in 2022-23 financial year, a government statement quoted Pandey as saying.

Food and fuel prices have soared in India in recent months as global markets have been hampered by the war in Ukraine, a large exporter of wheat, raising concerns about the overall food situation in the country as costs have risen sharply.

Pandey said traders had bought a large quantity of wheat at rates higher than the minimum support price, which was good for farmers. “This year due to an increase in market prices and higher demand by the private players both for the domestic as well as export purposes, the purchase by the government agency is less. But that goes in favour of the farmers. Farmers are getting a good price for the wheat,” he said.

“Our rice procurement last year was about 600 LMT and this year same figure is expected. Our annual requirement for NFSA is roughly about 350 LMT. So, we are in a surplus situation,” Pandey said, adding that that from next year fortified rice will be distributed to the entire Public Distribution System (PDS).

Pandey said that 40 LMT wheat has been contracted for export and about 11 LMT has been exported in April 2022. He informed that after Egypt, Turkey had also given approval for import of Indian wheat.

He clarified that edible oil stocks were sufficient in the country and after a temporary ban by Indonesia. Palm oil imports were expected to start soon and this would soften the edible oil prices in the country, the statement quoted Pandey as saying.

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