Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while releasing 35 new crop varieties with special traits through a video conference on September 28, 2021, claimed that wheat procurement centres in the country have increased threefold during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"More than 430 lakh metric tonnes of wheat has been procured in the Rabi season and farmers have been paid more than Rs 85,000 crore. Wheat procurement centres were increased more than three times during the pandemic," said Modi.
He makes this statement in the video above at the time stamp 1:08:50.
While both the amount of wheat procured and the number of procurement centres in the country have risen, the jump wasn't as high as the PM claimed.
FactChecker referred to the annual reports of the Department of Food and Public Distribution (DoFPD) and found that there has been a 47% increase in the number of wheat purchase centres operated by the Food Corporation of India (FCI) and state government agencies between 2019-20 (before pandemic) and 2020-21 (during pandemic). During Rabi Market Season (RMS) 2019-20, the country had 14,838 such centres, which increased to 21,869 in RMS 2020-21, according to DoFPD's 2020-21 report.
Since that is the latest published annual report, for the current year FactChecker referred to the FCI's website, which said, "For wheat procurement 21,106 procurement centres operated in RMS 2021-22." This means that in the ongoing Rabi season, the number of procurement centres have reduced by 763.
The number of procurement centres have registered a dip twice since RMS 2017-18. First in 2019-20, when the centres decreased by 4,087 (from 19,280 in 2018-19 to 15,193 in 2019-20). And then in the ongoing market season by 763 centres.
Since 2017-18, wheat procurement has only dipped once in 2019-20 when it dropped to 341.32 lakh metric tonnes (LMT) from 357.95 LMT the previous year. In fact, for the current RMS year (2021-22), the country has registered an "all-time high" procurement of wheat with 433.32 LMT.
"About 49 lakh farmers have already been benefited from the ongoing RMS procurement operations with MSP value of Rs 85,581.39 crore," announced the Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution on July 26, 2021.
In the current Rabi season, 49.2 lakh farmers have been benefited as of July 8, 2021, according to a report by the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices. This means 5.8 lakh more farmers have been covered this year than RMS 2020-21 when the number of beneficiary farmers was 43.4 lakh, shows the report titled Price Policy for Rabi Crops: The Marketing Season 2022-23.
FactChecker tried contacting the Prime Minister's Office and FCI's Chairman and Managing Director Atish Chandra via calls and emails, but had not received any response by the time this article was published. If and when we do, this piece will be updated.