NEW DELHI: Extending the free food grain scheme of Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) beyond September will be a tough call for the government considering the depleting wheat and rice stocks and the likely huge subsidy burden. While the government can tackle the subsidy issue, to get enough food grain to meet the buffer stock norms won’t be possible, sources said.
The government has extended the PMGKAY till September end, which entitles nearly 80 crore people to get 5 kg of food grain every month free of cost. This is in addition to the entitlement of a same quantity of subsidised food grain under the National Food Security Act.
According to officials, if the PMGKAY scheme is extended till March 2023, the overall rice stock in the central pool may plunge below the buffer norm by 22 lakh tonne. The buffer stock norm includes operational stocks and strategic reserves. The estimates also suggest that such extension may cost around Rs 90,000 crore to the exchequer in the form of subsidy.
Officials said the estimated rice stocks with the Food Corporation of India (FCI) as on April 1, 2023, would be around 114 lakh tonne against the buffer norm of 136 lakh tonne, if the PMGKAY is extended. Similarly, the wheat stock may fall to 90 lakh tonne against the buffer of 74 lakh tonne on April 1.
Due to the lowest ever procurement of wheat this year, its stock in the central pool stood at 285 lakh tonne as on July 1 against the buffer stock norm of 275 lakh tonne. The government has also ruled out the possibility of any open market sale of stocks during this year.
In the case of rice stock, the FCI had 315 lakh tonne in the central pool on July 1 against the buffer norm of 135 lakh tonne. But this will change dramatically, if the government continues the free food grain scheme. Facing shortage of wheat, the government in May had tweaked the ratio of wheat and rice for states and had allocated around 110 lakh tonne of additional rice in place of wheat.