New Delhi, Apr 9 (PTI) The government has kick started procurement of new wheat crop from farmers and has purchased 19.31 lakh tonnes of the grain in the current marketing year so far, according to the Food Ministry.

The government has fixed wheat procurement target at 320 lakh tonnes for 2018-19 marketing year, as against 308 lakh tonnes purchased by state-owned FCI last year.

Although wheat marketing year runs from April-March, the bulk of procurement is done in the first three months. FCI and state agencies undertake purchase at the minimum support price (MSP) on behalf of the government.

Food Corporation of India (FCI) has bought 19.31 lakh tonnes of wheat so far this year, slightly lower than 20.79 lakh tonnes in the year-ago period, the ministry’s data showed.

Much of the procurement is happening in Madhya Pradesh, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh at present, as arrival of fresh wheat is in full swing in these states. The procurement is expected to pick up in Punjab in the coming months.

From Punjab, the government aims to buy 119 lakh tonnes. The FCI has purchased 14,183 tonnes so far this year as against 10,644 tonnes in the year-ago period, the data showed.

In Madhya Pradesh, FCI and state agencies have procured 13.49 lakh tonnes so far this year, lower than 16.5 lakh tonnes in the year-ago. In Haryana too, wheat procurement remained lower at 4.27 lakh tonnes when compared with 3.92 lakh tonnes in the said period.

FCI purchased 69,122 tonnes of wheat from Haryana in 2018-19 marketing year so far, significantly higher than 3,178 tonnes in the year-ago period.

Wheat buying in Rajasthan increased to 60,678 tonnes from 16,248 tonnes, while that in Gujarat to 10,944 tonnes from 1,145 tonnes in the said period.

In the second estimate released in February, the government projected wheat production to be slightly lower at 971 lakh tonnes for this year, as against a record 985.1 lakh tonnes last year.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.