Bumper wheat crop: Storage worry stares Punjab govt in the face

By Hindustan Times on 14 May 2018

With a bumper wheat crop in Punjab this year, the state government is now faced with the storage worries. Of the 125 lakh tonnes of wheat procured in the state during the current season so far, 65 lakh tonnes are being stored in the open.

In technical terms, it is called covered at plinths (CAP) storage, which is a great cause of concern for the state government. The wheat stored in open is exposed to the vagaries of weather, and has shorter life. But what makes it worse are the piling up stocks of grains.

There are 25 lakh tonnes of wheat of the previous season and officials in the Food Corporation of India (FCI), the central body that runs nationwide public distribution system, say the state will have a backlog of wheat of one full season (at least 125 lakh tonnes), hinting at tougher days ahead for the state’s food and civil supplies department.

Besides, some more wheat of the current season is expected to arrive in the mandis. The state godowns also have 100 lakh tonnes of rice.

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State procurement agencies have witnessed the second highest arrival of wheat this year after 2012-13 when 130 lakh tonnes of wheat was procured. Officials of state food agencies said such a pile-up in the CAP storage was not witnessed for the past five years.

Another worrying factor is the fall in the monthly movement of foodgrains (wheat and rice) from the state, from an average of 18 lakh tonnes in the previous year (2016-17) to 15 lakh tonnes in the (2017-18) current year.

“Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are no longer consumer states and they have become self-sufficient in foodgrains. Also, Madhya Pradesh is now contributing to the national pool,” said an FCI official, on the condition of anonymity.

Besides, Haryana is expected to contribute additional 10 lakh tonned of foodgrains into national kitty this year (a total of 85 lakh tonnes as against 75 lakh tonnes in the previous year), which will cut down the demand for Punjab wheat, he added.

Punjab has a covered storage space (godowns) capacity of 152 lakh tonnes for both rice and wheat, and 4.75 lakh tonne capacity in steel silos for wheat storage. This entire space is already full, according to officials.

“We are prevailing upon the FCI to make movement of foodgrains faster. If the quality of grains gets affected due to CAP storage, Punjab will be at a loss,” said state principal secretary, food and civil supplies, KAP Sinha.

The FCI official suggested that the state could easily store 30 lakh tonnes of freshly procured wheat in CAP storage to save covered storage space, as it would cut infrastructure cost to one-third.

“30 lakh tonnes of wheat kept from April to September in CAP storage would move out easily,” he said.