State-owned Food Corporation of India (FCI) has sold 8.88 lakh tonne of wheat to bulk consumers like flour millers on the first day of e-auction conducted in 22 states, the food ministry said on Thursday.

FCI commenced e-auction of wheat on February 1 under Open Market Sale Scheme (OMSS) for bulk users in order to improve domestic availability and check wheat prices.

On the first day, it offered for sale about 22 lakh tonne of wheat against the earmarked 25 lakh tonne under OMSS.

“More than 1,100 bidders came forward for participation in the first e-auction. A quantity of 8.88 lakh tonne was sold on the first day of e-auction in 22 states,” the ministry said in a statement.

In Rajasthan, bidding would be conducted on Thursday, it said.

Further sale of wheat through e-auction will continue throughout the country on every Wednesday till March 15, it added.

Wheat is being offered at a reserve price of Rs 2,350 per quintal plus freight charges. A single buyer can quote for a maximum of 3,000 tonne and a minimum of 10 tonne.

Last month, the government announced plans to sell 30 lakh tonne of wheat in the open market from its buffer stock under OMSS in order to check wheat and wheat flour prices.

Out of 30 lakh tonne, FCI will sell 25 lakh tonne to bulk consumers like flour millers through e-auction and 2 lakh tonne to states/Union Territories.

About 3 lakh tonne wheat will also be given to state-PSUs, cooperatives and Federations like Kendriya Bhandar, NCCF and NAFED at concessional rate of Rs 2,350 per quintal without e-auction for converting wheat into wheat flour and offer it to public at a Maximum Retail Price of Rs 29.50 per kilogram.

According to the ministry, National Cooperative Consumers’ Federation (NCCF) has been allowed to lift 50,000 tonne wheat stock under OMSS across seven states.

About  1 lakh tonne of wheat each has been allotted to NAFED and Kendriya Bhandar under this scheme to bring down the price of ‘atta’ across the country.

“Offloading 30 lakh tonne wheat in the market through a scheme within a span of two months through multiple channels will have wider reach as well as immediate impact on the soaring wheat and atta prices and will help contain the rising prices and will bring much relief to the common man,” the ministry added.        FCI, the government’s nodal agency for procurement and distribution of foodgrains, had around 156.96 lakh tonne of wheat as of January 26 in the buffer stock.

On April 1, the country would have a wheat stock of 96 lakh tonne, more than the buffer norm requirement of 75 lakh tonne.

Under the OMSS policy, the government allows FCI to sell foodgrains, especially wheat and rice, at predetermined prices in the open market from time to time to bulk consumers and private traders.

The purpose is to boost the supply during the lean season and moderate the general open market prices. The Centre had banned wheat exports in May last year to control rising prices, after a slight fall in domestic production and a sharp decline in the FCI’s procurement for the central pool.

India’s wheat production fell to 106.84 million tonne in the 2021-22 crop year (July-June) from 109.59 million tonne in the previous year due to heat waves in a few growing states.

The procurement fell sharply to 19 million tonne this year from around 43 million tonne last year. The area under wheat crop in the current rabi (winter-sown) season is slightly higher. The procurement of new wheat crop would commence on March 15. PTI LUX ANU ANU