By Pallavi Singhal
In as many as 25 e-auctions under the Open Market Sales Scheme (OMSS), while a total amount of 48.12 lakh tonnes of wheat has been sold by the Food Corporation of India (FCI), rice found few takers with only 1.19 lakh tonne of the commodity sold.
In order to increase the availability of wheat and rice in the open market to ameliorate inflationary trends in wheat and rice prices, Food Corporation of India, has been offloading wheat and rice in the market through weekly e-auctions. Current phase of offloading of wheat in the open market started on June 28 this year.
To encourage sales of rice, the government has tweaked its policy twice now. It first brought down prices of the rice from Rs 3,100 per quintal to Rs 2,900 per quintal, with a Rs 200 per quintal differential cost covered by the Price Stabilization Fund.
On December 15, the centre announced that bidders will now be allowed to bid for any quantity of rice from 1 to 2,000 tonnes per auction, up from earlier limit of 10 to 1,000 tonne.
“The rice offered under the Central pool is of excellent quality, and traders are invited to actively engage in e-auctions to ensure easy and affordable availability for consumers in the market,” the FCI said in a press statement.
Expressing concern over rice inflation, FCI chief Ashok K Meena on Friday also urged traders to buy the grain under the Open Market Sale Scheme (OMSS) to boost domestic availability and contain price rise.
“Rice inflation data is slightly a concern. It is at 13 per cent year-on-year, which is a cause of worry. That’s why we are selling rice under the OMSS,” Meena added.
To dispel apprehension about the quality of PDS rice, which could be one of the reasons for the poor offtake, the FCI chief, for the first time, served reporters fried rice and kheer (sweet rice) cooked from the PDS rice picked up randomly from its godowns.
“The FCI has extremely good quality of rice available. The quality of rice offered under PMGKAY is as good as what you see in the market,” he said.
The only issue is that the PDS rice contains broken rice of up to 25 per cent, otherwise, the quality is good for consumption, he added.
According to the FCI chief, more offtake of rice by private traders under the OMSS will improve the availability in the domestic market, thereby bringing down the prices.
“Rice stock is healthy. Currently, we have a total of 20 million tonnes of surplus rice, which is more than our requirement for the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) and other welfare schemes,” he said.
About 23.7 million tonnes of rice has been procured in the 2023-24 kharif marketing season, he added.
In the case of wheat, retail prices have come under control due to the OMSS sale, along with other measures.
Under the OMSS, about 48.12 lakh tonnes of wheat has been sold, so far, since June. In addition to this, 86,084 tonnes of wheat has so far been sold to agencies Nafed, NCCF, and Kendriya Bhandar for converting it into wheat flour and selling at a subsidised rate of Rs 27.50 per kg under the ‘Bharat atta’ brand.
The government has allocated 101.5 lakh tonnes of wheat for the OMSS sale till March 2024. Reserve price for the FAQ wheat and URS wheat has been kept as Rs 2150 per quintal and Rs 2125 per quintal, respectively.
Besides the sale of wheat and rice under OMSS, the government has banned the export of wheat and several varieties of rice since last year.
This article has been republished from Moneycontrol