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30th May 2024 (13 Topics)

India to Begin Wheat Imports After Six-Year Gap

Context

India is poised to begin wheat imports after a six-year gap, to replenish depleted reserves and hold down prices that leaped following three years of disappointing crops.

Key Highlights

  • Import Tax: New Delhi is expected to lift a 40% tax on wheat imports, allowing private traders and flour millers to purchase from producers like Russia.
  • Timing: The government is likely to wait until after June, once the new wheat harvest is in, before removing the import tax.

Need for Imports

  • Declining Harvests: After five consecutive record harvests, high temperatures severely reduced India's wheat crop in 2022 and 2023.
  • Current Crop Forecast: This year's crop is expected to be 6.25% lower than the government estimate of 112 million metric tons.
  • Rising Prices: Domestic wheat prices have remained above the state-set minimum purchase rate of 2,275 rupees per 100 kg and have recently started increasing.
  • Depleted Stocks: Wheat stocks in state warehouses dropped to 7.5 million metric tons in April, the lowest in 16 years, after the government sold over 10 million tons to control prices.

Procurement Process

  • Purpose: The government procures food grains (rice, wheat, and coarse grains) to ensure farmers receive the minimum support price (MSP) and to maintain stocks for distribution to the poor under the public distribution system (PDS) and other schemes.
  • Agencies Involved: The Food Corporation of India (FCI) and state government agencies (SGAs) handle wheat procurement.
  • Procurement Systems:
    • Centralised Procurement: FCI or SGAs directly procure food grains for the Central Pool, which are used for welfare schemes and calamity relief.
    • Decentralised Procurement: Managed by the respective states.
  • MSP Declaration: The government announces the MSP before sowing based on the Commission for Agricultural Cost and Prices (CACP) MSPs apply to 23 farm commodities, including wheat and rice, but there is no statutory backing mandating their implementation.
Fact Box:
  • India is the world’s second largest wheat grower after China. Wheat is the main cereal crop in India.
  • Type: Rabi Crop
  • Total area under the crop: about 29.8 million hectares
  • Major Wheat Growing States: Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar and Gujarat.
  • Climatic Requirements for Wheat Cultivation
    • Adaptability: Suitable for tropical, sub-tropical, temperate, and cold regions, including areas beyond 60° north latitude.
    • Cold Tolerance: Can withstand severe cold and snow, resuming growth with warmer spring weather.
    • Optimal Conditions: Prefers cool, moist weather during the growing period followed by dry, warm weather for proper grain ripening.
    • Temperature: Ideal germination occurs at 20-25°C, but seeds can germinate within a range of 3.5 to 35°C.
    • Rainfall: Rains just after sowing can hinder germination and promote seedling blight. Warm and damp climates are not suitable for wheat.
  • Soil Requirements for Wheat Cultivation
    • Ideal Soil: Clay loam or loam texture with good structure and moderate water holding capacity.
    • Soil Reaction: Neutral soil pH is ideal.
    • Water Logging: Wheat is sensitive to water logging; therefore, soils with poor structure and drainage are unsuitable.
PYQ

Mains

Q1: What do you mean by the Minimum Support Price (MSP)? How will MSP rescue the farmers from the low-income trap? (2018)

Q2: What are the major reasons for declining rice and wheat yield in the cropping system? How crop diversification is helpful to stabilize the yield of the crop in the system? (2017)

Prelims

Q1: What is/are the advantages/advantages of zero tillage in agriculture? (2020)

  1. Sowing of wheat is possible without burning the residue of the previous crop.
  2. Without the need for a nursery of rice saplings, direct planting of paddy seeds in the wet soil is possible.
  3. Carbon sequestration in the soil is possible.

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

  1. 1 and 2 only
  2. 2 and 3 only
  3. 3 only
  4. 1, 2 and 3

Answer: D

Q2: Consider the following crops: (2013)

  1. Cotton
  2. Groundnut
  3. Rice
  4. Wheat

Which of these are Kharif crops?

  1. 1, 2 and 3
  2. 2, 3 and 4
  3. 1, 2 and 4
  4. 1 and 3

Solution: (a)

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