Newer FCI norms is not a move to get rid of MSP, Centre rubbishes claims and fear-mongering

FCI proposed strict norms for procurement of food grains (Image: Business Standard)

According to recent reports, the Food Corporation of India (FCI) has proposed revised norms to procure food grains. The main recommendations ask for a reduction of moisture content from 14% to 12% in the case of wheat. The grains should not be procured even with value cut if it does not meet the requirement of moisture. The allowed percentage of foreign matter to be reduced to 0.50% from 0.75%. It further suggested reducing slightly damaged grains from 4% to 2%. FCI has argued that as wheat is procured in peak summers, less moisture is easily achievable.

In the case of Paddy, the permissible limit of foreign material should be reduced to 1% of the existing 2%. The damaged and discoloured grains to be reduced from 5% to 3%. Also, the admixture of lower-class paddy should be removed from 6% to 5%, said FCI.

In the case of Rice, FCT recommended that the rice refraction should be reduced to 20% from 25%, and the limit of damaged grains should be reduced by 1%. Red grains should not be allowed. The moisture content should be reduced from 15% to 14%. Similar changes were proposed by FCI for other grains, including oats, barley and more.

FCI added in the report that some quality of the wheat stock is required for export. India often export grains to fetch good price or on humanitarian grounds. In such cases, the stock should match international standards.

Farmers allege govt wants to tighten norms to kill MSP

As soon as FCI’s recommendations were made public, it drew criticism from the farmer unions who alleged that the governments want to let go of Minimum Selling Price and reduce procurement by making the norms strict. Jagmohan Singh, general secretary of Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) Ekta (Dakuanda), claimed, “It is clear that government is running from procurement and its promise of continuing the existing MSP falls flat as the government is trying to put salt on our wounds by issuing such recommendations.

He further added that weather conditions like rain and wind storms often play spoilsport during the wheat harvesting season. Thus FCI’s argument that wheat is procured in peak summer holds no ground.

Lot of scope of improvement in the proposal: Govt

The government of India has refuted the claims that it wants to let go of MSP or reduce procurement. According to sources, the core specifications were revised last time in 1995. In the last two decades, the agriculture sector has seen a lot of advancements in terms of seeds, farming practices and processing capabilities. Thus, the proposed changes are easily achievable.

In its response to the news reports, sources said the proposed changes were drawn by a committee of experts from various organisations associated with food grains procurement and management system was constituted by the Government of India to review the specifications and align them with standards set by Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) as well as other standards like CODEX.

The government further said that there should be a balance between protecting the interest of the farmers as well as the needs of the 81 crore beneficiaries of the Public Distribution System (PDS), who are the end consumers of central pool food grain stocks procured by FCI.

“The suggested changes are at the proposal stage. The government will go through extensive consultations with all stakeholders before formally notifying any changes in core specifications of the food grains for procurement,” sources within the ministry said.

Anurag: B.Sc. Multimedia, a journalist by profession.