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Food grains rotting away in Indian godowns, streets

Mar 19, 2010

The Agriculture Minister has summoned the State Food and Supplies Minister to find an urgent solution to the food stock wastage in the Indian state of Punjab, after a media expose. The state administrators are however blaming the centre for the failure in distribution of grains and inadequate storage facility.

New Delhi: If you thought price rise was because of shortage due to drought, think again. The rotting mountains of grains in the open in Fatehgarh Sahib district of Punjab seem to tell a different story. They were procured more than two year ago.

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Moreover, the problem is not restricted to Punjab alone. Food stock, primarily wheat and rice lying in the open is a common sight in states across India, simply because the country has not invested in creating adequate storage.

The Punjab government is laying the blame on the Center, saying it is better to distribute the grain free of cost rather than have rats eat it. They have already written to the Agriculture MInister asking for the grain to be picked up by other states.

Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal says he has been writing to Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar to take it away to other states.

The finance minister Manpreet Badal says their godowns are too full.

Manpreet Badal said, “We have exhausted our warehouses and godowns and we are stocking on roads and kuccha plinths and unscientific plinths, even if there is an intention to hire, there is none available to hire.”

India has godowns to store 16 million tones when it needs almost three times that. What that means is wastage in these times of shortage.

Agricultural scientist Ashok Gulati said, "The total storage capacity is 28 million tonnes .. this leads to losses of 10 – 15%. Translate this into value... that is 6 million tonnes of grains damaged, unfit for human consumption ... it amounts to Rs 8,000 to Rs 10,000 crores annually."

This is a problem that is likely to get only worse when the next harvest comes in – a problem that Pawar says, he's acutely aware of.

"This is the problem I am facing, I will talk to the Punjab minister,” said Pawar.

Experts offer many solutions: increase allocation through PDS, give food grain through the NREGA, offload the excess stock in the market, but don't feed it to the rats.

Pawar promises action on wasted wheat

Hours after a media report that showed millions of metric tons of wheat grain rotting away in Punjab, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar promised on Thursday that his ministry would look for an urgent solution.

He has summoned the Punjab Food and Supplies Minister Adesh Partap Singh Kairon to Delhi to meet him.

Pawar's solution to food grain worth crores lying rotting in Punjab because of a lack of storage space, includes talking to the Punjab government about hiring an extra warehouse, if necessary.

That shameful case of a government storage facility in Srihand in Punjab was not an isolated one. Across the state, at different government warehouses, wheat grain worth 500 to 800 crores is rotting away. In the last three years, 72 lakh metric tonnes of grain has been bought from farmers. Most of that is lying in the open because there's just not enough storage space.

[Vikram Chowdhary/ NDTV]

Source : IBN Live
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