Centre to relax quality norms for wheat procurement: Paswan

The central government is ready to relax the stipulated criteria for assessing wheat quality considering the huge losses to farmers due to untimely rains and hailstorms, union food and consumer affairs minister Ram Vilas Paswan said today.

The centre has now asked the governments of Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh to test samples of wheat jointly with FCI immediately on its arrival so that appropriate relaxation in quality norms can be considered for the procurement.

During the current Rabi season, quality norms for the procurement of wheat, which has lost its shine, have already been relaxed in Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat. After testing the samples in Madya Pradesh, shrinked and broken grains have been allowed up to 10 per cent.

"The central government is ready to give more than the stipulated criteria to the farmers after the hailstorm. There is a contingency fund made for this and they should help out of that," said Paswan.

More than 30 farmers have committed suicide in the region in less than one month due to the heavy loss of crops and the discontent in many rural areas against government policies is turning into anger against the government.

Unseasonal rains and storms have badly damaged the winter crop in large parts in the north, and villagers have blamed the suicides on the government for not stepping in to help the distressed farmers or ensuring that crop prices remained stable.

The government relaxes norms for foodgrains procurement from time to time. Procurement quality norms are decided every year on the recommendations of a committee of experts which include food secretaries of states. If quality of wheat is affected due to unseasonal rains or any other reason, relaxation in the norms is considered on the recommendations of states after testing samples of wheat on its arrival.

As per Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 relaxation in norms is allowed in the case of broken and shrinked grains and if grains have lost shine. According to the Act, grains having more than 14 per cent moisture and hence cannot be stored are not procured.