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FMCG firms to shell out more for Sharbati wheat

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FMCG companies, which buy the Sharbati variety of wheat, will have to shell out more for the commodity as poor rains have badly hit the Malwa plateau — the sole producer of the high-protein variety in India.

The prices of Sharbati are hovering around Rs 2,500-3,000 a quintal and are likely to touch Rs 4,000 a quintal. Sharbati wheat is in good demand in pasta and biscuit manufacturers and chakki fresh atta makers.

The third-largest wheat producing state of the country is going to suffer this year in terms of production. With prices of Sharbati flaring up, the arrival trend does not augur well for farmers, particularly Malwa farmers.

A fast-depleting water table and scanty rainfall have badly affected the productivity, which according to farmers, has slipped to as low as 5 quintals per hectare. Though the state agriculture department does not buy the farmers’ figures, the Malwa belt reported no crop in 150,000 hectares.

Though multinational companies such as ITC, Cargill and Hind Lever have not started procuring Sharbati yet, the shortage will restrict it to even less than last year’s level of 700,000 tonnes. Firms such as ITC have set up e-choupal and choupal sagar — information centres and wheat procurement centres across the state. As of now, few MNCs have reportedly started procuring Lok-1 variety of wheat.

“The MNCs are likely to start procuring from the next week or fortnight,” Pravesh Sharma, principal secretary, department of agriculture, told Business Standard.

“This year, production is likely to remain stagnant at 6 million tonnes despite a fall in acreage by 250,000 hectares. We managed to maintain the production at last year’s level by supplying certified seeds to rain-fed areas such as Gwalior-Chambal and Bundelkhand belt. As of now, we have procured 500,000 tonnes of wheat against the targeted 2 million tonnes,” Sharma said.

He claims that productivity has gone up from 17 quintals per hectare to 19 quintals this year. “Also, we ran some programmes to assist farmers scientifically to improve productivity. The arrival trend in mandis reflects that the productivity has gone up. We have procured 500,000 tonnes of wheat so far as against 200,000 tonnes at the same time last year.”

Madhya Pradesh is also the only state to pay Rs 50 bonus on a minimum support price of Rs 1,080. However, farmers in the Malwa belt are not happy: “This year, my field received no rains and there is no irrigation facility to my fields,” Rajkumar Verma, a farmer in Nasrullaganj said.

The state has agri-export zones in Bhopal and Malwa region for the commodity.

The zone which have suffered due to scanty rainfall include; Bhopal, Sehore, Ashta, Ratlam, Ujjain, Indore, Dhar, some parts of Vidisha, Hoshangabad, Harda, and Raisen districts.

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