The Food Corporation of India (FCI) has achieved highest wheat procurement during the Covid-19 pandemic. According to officials, despite fortnightly delay due to the lockdown, FCI wheat procurement touched an all time high of 382 lakh metric tonnes (LMT) with payment to farmers amounting to Rs 73,500 crore
On June 16, the procurement of 382 LMT wheat by the government agencies created a record surpassing all past records of wheat procurement with 42 lakh farmers being paid Rs 73,500 crore during the ongoing pandemic. Earlierm, the record was 381.48 LMT during 2012-13.
Wheat harvesting generally starts towards the end of March and procurement commences in the first week of April every year. However, with the imposition of national lockdown from March 25, all operations came to a standstill. The procurement could start from April 15 in most of the procuring states. The biggest challenge was to ensure that procurement is done in a safe manner during the pandemic. This was achieved through a multi-pronged strategy of awareness creation, social distancing and deployment of technology. The number of purchase centres was increased substantially reducing the farmer footfalls in individual purchase centers. Strict social distancing norms were followed and sanitisation was undertaken regularly.
In addition to the Covid threat, three major challenges were faced by the procuring agencies in wheat procurement. As all the jute mills were closed, production of jute sacks used for filling of procured wheat stopped, creating a major crisis. This was tackled by using more plastic bags, supplemented by used bags with strict quality conditions. Further, there were unseasonal rains in all the major producing states leading to wheat getting exposed to water. This posed a major threat to the farmers as such stocks could not be procured under normal specifications. Government of India and FCI intervened immediately and after conducting detailed scientific analysis, specifications were re-fixed to ensure that no farmer is put to distress while making sure that the produce so procured meets the minimum quality requirements of the consumers.
Thirdly, the labour supply was affected in addition to a general sense of fear among the masses about the virus. This was addressed by taking a series of confidence building measures at the local level by the state administration. Labourers were provided with adequate protective aids like masks and sanitisers, and other precautionary measures were also taken to ensure their safety.
Friday, 19 June 2020 | PNS | Dehradun