Ahead of vibrant Diwali festival, the central government unveiled a new wheat flour scheme called “Bharat Atta.”
Union Minister for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution Piyush Goyal on Monday flagged off 100 mobile vans from Delhi’s Kartavya Path to begin selling the atta.
The scheme aims to reduce food inflation and provide reasonably priced wheat flour to the poor and vulnerable sections of the society.
Here’s all you need to know about the new initiative.
What is Bharat Atta?
According to Business Today, Bharat Atta is a fortified wheat flour, made with a blend of rice, wheat, pulses.
The Public Distribution System (PDS) is being used to implement the new scheme, giving the target population convenient access to reasonably priced wheat flour.
Notably, in February, Kendriya Bhandar, and other cooperatives were asked to lift up to three LMT of wheat from FCI Depots and turn it into Atta (flour), which would then be sold to customers at a reasonable price through a variety of retail outlets, reported the Times of India.
To control the retail prices of key commodities, Food Corporation of India (FCI), a state-owned company, sold 2.87 lakh tonnes of wheat this month to bulk buyers like flour millers and small traders under the Open Market Sale Scheme (OMSS) since June through a weekly e-auction.
Union Minister for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution Piyush Goyal with Ministers of State Ashwini Chaube and Niranjan Jyoti launches ‘Sale of Bharat Atta’ at Kartavya Path, India Gate, in New Delhi.
The report suggests 2.87 lakh tonne wheat was sold to 2,389 bidders in the e-auction, the food ministry said in a statement. The weighted average selling price was Rs 2,291.15 per quintal for fair and average quality wheat, as against the reserve price of Rs 2,150 per quintal.
The sale of wheat under open market sake will continue till 31 March 2024 and about 101.5 lakh tonne of wheat will be offloaded till then.
How much does it cost?
According to CNBC-TV18, the initiative was preceded by a pilot sale of 18,000 tonnes of wheat flour at Rs 29.50 per kilo.
However, this has been reduced to Rs 27.50 in order to combat inflation.
The prevailing market price of wheat flour is Rs 40-70 per kilo, depending on the quality and location.
While launching the product, Goyal said, “The government of India has taken several steps for the welfare of both farmers and consumers. We have procured food commodities every time we saw the people of the country struggle due to rising prices and have sold them at subsidised prices to benefit the consumers.”
Where and how can people buy the flour?
The Bharat Atta will be available in packets of 10 kilogrammes and 30 kilogrammes respectively and will be sold at the outlets of Mother Dairy, NAFED, NCCF, among other cooperatives.
They will also be distributed via 800 mobile vans and 2,000 outlets run by these agencies, providing a broader reach to the consumers.
Public distribution vehicles carrying ‘Bharat Atta’ during their launch at Kartavya Path, India Gate, in New Delhi. PTI© Provided by Firstpost
Taking about allocations, Consumer Affairs Secretary Rohit Kumar said that NAFED and NCCF would each receive one lakh tonnes, while Kendriya Bhandar would get 50,000 tonnes.
Why general prices of wheat are so high?
India, the world’s largest wheat producer, continues to face high cereal inflation for at least a year.
According to Hindustan Times, the rate of cereal inflation is still in the double digits. In September, retail wheat inflation decreased to 7.9 per cent from 9.3 per cent in August. Its retail price had increased by 17.4 per cent in September last year.
Food grain production was at a record high, according to the agriculture ministry’s fourth and final round of crop output projections for 2022–2023, announced last week. But, wheat production was only 110 million tonnes, 1.7 per cent less than the first predicted 112 million tonnes.
The export of wheat and rice is still prohibited as the government plans to ensure that consumers have adequate supply and reasonably priced access.
While some exporters and traders have approached the government to request relaxation on a number of fronts, including export permits, the government remains firm in its resolve to limit exports of wheat and rice, motivated by the core idea of meeting the needs of India’s enormous 1.4 billion population.
It is also to be noted that the aforementioned anti-inflation measures come ahead of key state assembly elections and a general election next year.
Are other commodities being sold at a subsidised rate?
Prime Minister Narendra Modi last week announced plans of introducing free food grains programme to protect 80 crore consumers from rising food inflation.
The sale of subsidised Bharat Dal (pulses) under which chickpeas (chana dal) were sold at Rs 60 per kilo packet and Rs 55 per kilo for a 30 kilo packet respectively, as per India Today.
With inputs from agencies