Food Corporation of India (FCI) will allocate 300,000 tonnes of wheat to three government agencies in January, which will convert the grain into flour and sell it to consumers at a subsidised rate under the Bharat Atta brand to battle inflation, Union food secretary Sanjeev Chopra said.
Atta (wheat flour) prices continue to remain firm despite the government’s intervention at the retail level.
The all-India average retail price of atta has increased to ?36.5 a kg, according to data from the consumer affairs ministry.
India’s retail inflation accelerated to a 4-month high of 5.69% in December, driven by an uptick in food prices.
Chopra said that the government aims to bring down prices in regions where the rates are higher than average.
Further, the government will continue selling atta till March to combat food inflation. However, it will depend on prices and requirements, he added.
“In December, about 100,000 tonnes of wheat was offloaded as atta through three agencies—NAFED (National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Ltd.), NCCF (National Cooperative Consumers’ Federation of India Ltd.) and Kendriya Bhandar. We are hoping to offload about 300,000 tonnes more wheat as atta to consumers through these three agencies in January,” Chopra told Mint in an interview.
“So, in total, we are hoping about 400,000 tonnes of wheat will be offloaded to consumers as Bharat Atta in December and January,” he said.
If prices still remain elevated, the government will continue the scheme beyond January, up to February-March, depending on the requirement.
“DoCA (department of consumer affairs) collects rates from about 500 centres across the country. We try to find out a heat map, where the prices are higher in the centres compared to the average for that particular zone. So, under the Bharat atta scheme, the effort is to concentrate on those regions where the price of atta is higher than the average of that zone so that we can make a difference pointedly,” Chopra explained.
The food and public distribution department, through FCI, has so far allocated 390,000 tonnes of wheat to NAFED, NCCF and Kendriya Bhandar, with these agencies having sold 116,617 tonnes of atta to consumers after milling and processing.
At present, FCI has 15.9 million tonnes of wheat in its buffer stock, higher than the buffer norm of 13.8 mt as of 1 January.
Before Diwali, the central government formally launched the sale of atta at a subsidised rate of ?27.5 a kg under the ‘Bharat’ brand across the country. This was aimed at taming food inflation. As part of the scheme, cooperatives NAFED, NCCF and Kendriya Bhandar were allocated 230,000 tonnes of wheat from FCI at ?21.5 a kg. These three agencies convert wheat into atta and sell it to consumers under the brand Bharat atta via 800 mobile vans and 2,000 retail points and outlets to provide relief from high prices.
The price of Bharat atta was kept lower than the prevailing market rate of ?36-70 a kg, depending on the location and quality. In February 2023, the government carried out a pilot sale of ?18,000 tonnes of Bharat atta at ?29.5 per kg through these three cooperatives as part of the price stabilisation fund (PSF) scheme.
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