An attempt by the government to control the price rise in foodgrains by offloading wheat in the open market has failed to take off, as small traders are reportedly unwilling to pick up the wheat. The reason is that the price of wheat fixed by the Food Corporation of India (FCI) for small traders is higher than the prevailing wholesale prices at major centres across the country.
In June, an empowered group of ministers headed by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee had allocated 50 lakh tonnes of wheat for sale in the open market as part of its attempt to bring down prices of essential food items. It had also allowed the purchase of a truckload of wheat per day per small trader directly from FCI's nearest depots.
This decision was taken in the wake of the government's assessment that bulk buyers, who have used the open market sale of wheat to their benefit, are limited only to major urban centres, while small traders, who service the rest of the country, do not benefit.
Punjab wheat fit only for feeding cattle
Punjab, known as the 'food bowl of India', has this year once again saddled itself with the purchase of wheat unfit for human consumption, in what commentators have called the ''well-entrenched trend of corruption and mismanagement'' in foodgrain procurement and storage in the state.
In fact, some 48,315 tonnes of wheat procured by the Punjab government are to be fed to cattle after being declared unfit for human consumption. The stock, enough to feed about 7.1 million people a month through the public distribution system (PDS), had piled up over the previous three years.
This has been admitted by none other than agriculture and food supply minister Sharad Pawar, who recently said in Parliament that as many as 244 bags of wheat procured by Punjab State Civil Supplies Corporation (PUNSUP) on behalf of the Food Corporation of India (FCI) were found to contain ''mud slabs''.