INDIA – With surplus wheat being used to feed chickens this year, it is alleged that there may be shortages of this grain in future years.
As the government twiddles its thumbs on allowing export of surplus grains, wheat prices have plunged below not just the government’s promised minimum support price but also the price of maize. According to an opinion piece in Economic Times of India, this has prompted poultry feed manufacturers to substitute wheat for maize in their produce.
So chicken will eat wheat this year. As prices stay depressed, farmers will switch from wheat to some other crop or just simply reduce acreage, come next sowing season. There could well be a shortage of wheat next year, thanks to policy that makes chicken feed of wheat. This is most unfortunate. Blame it on the bureaucracy’s refusal to take a decision, says the newspaper. Domestic grain prices have plunged, thanks to bumper harvests, stocks far in excess of buffer stocking norms and a steadfast refusal to allow export of grain.
As of 1 May, India’s food stocks stand at 27.8 million tonnes of rice, 31.4 million tonnes of wheat and 100,000 tonnes of coarse grains, adding up to a food mountain twice as large as is required by official buffer stocking norms.
According to Economic Times, the reason trotted out for not allowing exports, despite the fact that a largish portion of the stocks are in the open, in danger of being drenched in pre-monsoon rains and spoilt beyond redemption, is that the government does not know how much grain would be required to implement the food security law.
Since the private trade knows that the government would not allow exports, it is not entering the market. The government’s own capacity to procure grain is limited outside the traditional procurement areas of Punjab and Haryana, making nonsense of the concept of a minimum support price outside these privileged states, says the newspaper.
For the babu [bureaucrat], it is safer to endanger actual food security by destroying the incentive to grow grain next season than to take a stand on how much grain can be exported this year, considering the excess stocks already built up, says Economic Times. It alleges that the food minister, whose job it is to take decisions when his babus dither, seems clueless. The chicken-hearted, and not just chicken, are gobbling up our future food, in other words.
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