Only allocated rice in rations, people sell it to buy expensive wheat

Wheat prices have shot up in the market following a reduced production this year 

By Aman Gupta
Published: Friday 19 August 2022
Pir Muhammad is a farmer in Sarila of ​​UP’s Hamirpur district who owns 1 acre of land. Photo: Aman Gupta
Pir Muhammad is a farmer in Sarila of ​​UP’s Hamirpur district who owns 1 acre of land. Photo: Aman Gupta Pir Muhammad is a farmer in Sarila of ​​UP’s Hamirpur district who owns 1 acre of land. Photo: Aman Gupta

High wheat prices have led to an unusual situation: A section of citizens in Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh are selling the rice they received via public distribution system to buy wheat or flour in the open market.

A warm winter affected wheat yield last Rabi in several regions in north India, including Bundelkhand — a predominantly wheat-consuming part. The ongoing Russia-Ukraine too has strained availability and price of the staple.

“Wheat is usually available in the government rations, so I did not sow wheat this Rabi season. But we received only rice this time,” said Pir Muhammad, who owns four bighas or 1 acre of land.

Read more: Wheat Crisis: Government procurement goals not met, food security risk increases

Muhammad, like most people in the region, is not accustomed to eating rice every day and prefers chapatis made of wheat instead. When he went to the market to buy wheat, he was astounded by the rates.

Wheat prices have drastically shot up this year, after the scorching heat led to a reduced production during the Rabi season. Several people have also complained about receiving just rice in their rations this time and have taken to selling the rice rations so they can buy the costly wheat.

Not enough rain and the early onset of the summer heat spoiled Madan’s crops this year. The farmer from Uttar Pradesh had planted wheat in his seven bighas or 1.75 acres of land.

“The total production was 20 quintals of wheat, most of which I had to sell to feed my family. I expected to receive wheat in the rations from the government but only got rice this time,” Madan said, adding that he had to buy wheat, which is very expensive right now.

Many farmers in the area shared the same story. A farmer in Sarila of ​​UP’s Hamirpur district said that he grew peas and lentils this year to earn some money.

Read more: Scanty rain in India’s largest state; kharif sowing hit in eastern UP

“There is no money to buy vegetables on days I can’t find work. I can’t afford to buy rations for a whole year in advance,” said Bhagirath Kushwaha of Rath tehsil in Hamirpur. Kushwaha works as a daily wage worker.

During the COVID-19-induced pandemic, my family would receive just enough wheat and rice to make our ends meet, Kushwaha further said. “When the money was too tight, we would sell the rice from the rations. If we don’t eat roti, a meal seems incomplete,” he said.

Traders had anticipated wheat rates would shoot up this year. Less but steady quantities of wheat grain came into the market for sale over the last three months. As a result, wheat prices did not rise beyond Rs 2,000 per quintal. However, there’s no more wheat grain coming into the market for sale.

Big traders are directly buying wheat from farmers’ homes almost 50 kilometres away, claimed a local trader Rameshwar Rajput. “The big traders are even paying Rs 50-100 more than the market rate per quintal to the farmers for wheat. They expect the prices to rise further,” he said.

The prices might even tough Rs 2,700-2800 per quintal if there is no government intervention, Rajput added.

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