The Union government on Sunday told states and Union Territories, whose wheat procurement deadlines were fast approaching, to continue the process till May 31. It has also asked the Food Corporation of India to continue wheat procurement from farmers under the central pool.

Central pool pertains to the stock of foodgrains procured by Union and state governments through Minimum Support Price and reserved to be distributed through certain schemes.

The Minimum Support Price is the rate at which the government buys farm produce and is based on a calculation of at least one and a half times the cost of production incurred by farmers. Market rates for many crops are usually well below the Minimum Support Price.

The Centre on Sunday said that it extended the deadline because of requests from states and Union Territories to extend the procurement period, according to a press release from the Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution.

Punjab, Haryana, Delhi and Jammu and Kashmir have been asked to procure wheat till May 31. The Rajasthan government will procure the grain till June 10, while Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh will do it till June 25.

The wheat procurement will continue in Uttarakhand till June 30, and in Bihar till July 15.

The ministry said that the wheat procurement in the central pool during the current rabi market season was lesser than the previous season. It claimed that this was because market prices were higher than the minimum support price, and farmers had been selling wheat to private traders.

Meanwhile, the Union government has allowed the Food Corporation of India to relax grain quality norms for wheat procurement from Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh.

“The emergence of shrivelled grains is a natural phenomenon appearing as a result of the extreme heatwave that enveloped the northern part of the country in the month of March,” it said. “These adverse weather conditions are beyond the control of the farmers and hence, they should not be penalised for such natural occurrence.”

On May 13, India had announced banning wheat exports to control the rising prices of the crop in the country. However, the government had said that shipments ordered on or before May 13 will be exported.

Exports will be allowed in case permissions are granted by the Union government to help other countries in meeting their food security needs, India’s Directorate General of Foreign Trade has said.

Amid the record rise in global demand, wheat production in India had plunged, particularly due to the severe heatwaves since March.