Reduce food security
Through JR Janumpalli
A virtual war is underway between the central and Telangana governments over the state’s rice supply. The Center imposed a blockade on the rice supply to Telangana.
Paddy production in Telangana has increased since 2014 and its supply has also increased accordingly. Its purchases increased from 15.79 lakh tonnes in 2015-16 to 94.53 lakh tonnes in 2020-21. Even across India, rice purchases increased from 380.86 lakh tonnes in 2016-17 to 600.65 lakh tonnes in 2020-21. Paddy production in Telangana in 2013-14 was 66.20 lakh tonnes, which increased to 251 lakh tonnes in 2020-21.
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But during the current Kharif season, the Food Corporation of India (FCI) refused to buy paddy from Telangana, citing lack of storage space, excessive reserve stocks, rabi parboiled rice, etc. , putting Telangana’s farmers in a dilemma. The Telangana government complains that the FCI treats states differently.
Telangana is expected to produce 110 lakh tonnes of rice this kharif season while the 5 lakh tonne levy is still pending from the previous rabi season. But up to 135.89 lakh tonnes of rice from Punjab during the kharif season (2020-21) and 108.7 lakh tonnes in 2019-20 would have been bought by the FCI while from Telangana it was only of 94.53 tonnes of lakh in 2020-21. The Telangana government is fighting against this discrimination. Looks like the state is being punished for its good performance in rice production!
Objectives of the FCI
The FCI is the Indian government’s nodal agency for the purchase and distribution of food grains. The FCI has three declared food policy objectives:
- Effective price support operations to safeguard the interests of farmers
- Distribution of food grains throughout the country for the Public Distribution System (PDS)
- Maintain a satisfactory level of operational and regulatory food grain stocks to ensure national food security.
The indefinite supply policy is an integral part of India’s agricultural price support policy for the two most important grains – rice and wheat. The FCI, together with other government agencies, is responsible for purchasing wheat and rice. This is done under the price support program.
The indefinite supply of food grains means that the FCI is obligated to buy any grain that farmers offer to sell to the prescribed supply MSP (minimum support price) as long as the grain meets a certain quality standard. . This means that the government is obligated to buy from the MSP of any farmer who comes forward to sell. The Indian government announces the MSP before each kharif / rabi season. This is done on the basis of the recommendations of the reports of the Agricultural Costs and Prices Commission (CACP).
The FCI buys food grains to ensure that an effective market intervention is in place to keep prices under control and also to ensure the food security of the country. Achieving food security goals is an important mandate of the FCI and, therefore, it oversees the distribution of food grains under the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS), the National Food Security Act (NFSA) and other food-based social protection programs such as midday meals, provision for social institutions and homes, and programs for adolescent girls and pregnant women. In addition to distribution under PDS / NFSA, the FCI also takes care of the supply of food grains for the defense and paramilitary forces and during natural disasters.
The FCI also facilitates the sale of excess inventory under the Open Market Sales Scheme. This is done to supply the markets with food grains, especially during the lean season, and to avoid a situation of rising prices due to a lower supply of food grains. The FCI is also supposed to transfer food grains to deficit regions.
Parboiled rice is a type of processed rice, mostly partially boiled. The grinding of parboiled rice offers a better yield with a low breakage of the rice grains. It is a rich source of calcium, fiber, potassium, and vitamins such as B-6 and is also good for diabetic patients because it contains a low amount of starch.
Parboiling increases the nutritional value, decreases breakage and also changes the surface of the cooked rice. Parboiled rice is widely used in frozen foods and as a dry powder in instant soup mixes. It is available in three forms of rice length such as long, medium and short.
The purchase of parboiled rice has been an integral part of the supply system for a very long time. It is made in Telangana and other states during rabi season to reduce broken rice. There is a market for it in some states in India and some countries in Asia and Africa. The parboiled rice supply is an integral part of Telangana’s annual rice supply.
In addition, the supply of rice is compulsory by the FCI and its associated state institutions for the TPDS. It is also compulsory to buy rice from farmers. And the purchase of parboiled rice is also part of the regular supply schedule. Not buying more rice from Telangana and parboiled rice during rabi season means that the indefinite supply system is not being followed. Moreover, trying to stop it now all at once is unreasonable. Even if it must be stopped, there must be some transition time and sufficient notice.
Another important aspect is the provision of food grains for distribution to all target audiences. It doesn’t seem to be happening now and with this step it will only get worse. The poverty rate in the country is still around 22% of the population. The hunger index, which hovered around the 65th place between 2009 and 2014, fell to 80 in 2015 and is now in the 100 as of 2017. This proves that the PDS is not fully addressing hunger target groups of people.
Lack of storage space, excessive reserve stock, parboiled rice, etc. are the problems of the FCI and the Indian government. They must discuss and find solutions to these problems in appropriate fora while consulting and engaging States to take the necessary steps to overcome these problems. The central government needs to manage the FCI and the PDS more effectively, modifying and modernizing them to adapt to changing circumstances and changing dynamics of food production and supply.
Free market sales and export must also be undertaken. The Center simply cannot pass the buck to the states and shut down supply at the last minute, jeopardizing the states’ production and supply schedule, leaving them and farmers in a huge financial dilemma.
In the current imbroglio, the Center holds Telangana in suspense until the last moment without specifying its purchasing intentions and also categorically refusing to buy parboiled rice. As if that weren’t enough, the state unity of the ruling National Party adds insult to injury.
The BJP is creating a ruckus by demanding that the Telangana government buy all the rice produced in the state in a bizarre political farce. It sounds like a deliberate political ploy to create a sticky situation for the TRS government.
The Centre’s approach amounts to a transgression on the part of the Center by not respecting the policy of awarding contracts for an indefinite period and by trying to politically profit from the disappointment of the State. It is not appropriate for a national government to act this way in a public policy matter involving the welfare of farmers.
- The indefinite supply policy is an integral part of India’s agricultural price support policy for two most important grains – rice and wheat
- The indefinite supply of food grains means that the Food Corporation of India is obligated to purchase any grain that farmers offer to sell to the prescribed supply MSP as long as the grain meets a certain quality standard. This means that the government is obligated to buy from the MSP of any farmer who comes forward to sell
- FCI refused to buy paddy from Telangana citing lack of storage space, excessive reserve stock, rabi parboiled rice, etc., putting the state’s farmers in a dilemma
- This approach amounts to a transgression on the part of the Center by not respecting the policy of unlimited purchases and by trying to take advantage of the state’s disappointment on the political level.
(The author is a freelance journalist)
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