The Centre on Monday allowed states to borrow three months of ration from the Food Corporation (FCI) warehouses, to help them distribute foodgrains free of cost to the poor and vulnerable sections impacted by the COVID-19.
In February, the states were allocated 4.55 million tonnes (mt) of wheat and rice under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), of which states lifted around 4.42 mt, that is almost 97 per cent.
That apart, grains are also allocated for distribution for other welfare schemes, that includes mid-day meal programme, Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), and defence forces.
Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Delhi, Punjab, West Bengal, and several other states have decided to distribute free ration for the next few months in advance for the poor in view of the COVID-19 crisis.
India annually distributes around 55-60 mt of wheat and rice among beneficiaries of its welfare schemes through its network ration shops across the country.
Due to good procurement over the past few years, March-end stock levels of wheat and rice in central government warehouses is enough to distribute one-full year quota of grains in advance among all the ration cardholders and beneficiaries of other welfare schemes.
Besides, the country has around 3 mt of pulses stock with it, of which almost 50 per cent is chana dal. It also has 1.1 mt of oilseeds and 4 mt of sugar in the buffer.
The pulses and oilseeds are with state agency National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India, while the sugar buffer is held by the sugar mills on behalf of the government.
All of this can be immediately offloaded in the market through ration shops if the need arises.