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Export of wheat is a temporary solution, arranging storage space is permanent

posted May 23, 2012, 4:49 AM by Puneet Goyal
Monday, May 21, 2012 - 10:30
By Harish K. Monga
CHANDIGARH: Punjab and Haryana are known as the food baskets of India but this season’s bumper harvest and wheat procurement in both the states have left happy and concerned as well.
With 12.4 million tones of wheat already procurement in Punjab, the highest procurement in the last five decades, the Punjab government and its agencies are wondering where to store the foodgrain.  The target for wheat procurement for the current year was set as 11 million tonnes.
Similar is the situation in the Haryana, where the procurement has gone upto.5 million tonnes as against the target of 7 million tonnes.wheat export not a solution
With monsoon likely to hit the States at the end of June, the old and new stocks might be exposed to rain and ultimately thousands of tonnes could end up rotting.
It is pertinent to mention that Punjab which has just 1.54 per cent of the country’s geographical area, alone supplies to the national food grain basket over 60 percent of the wheat and rice.
During the current wheat procurement season, at the start of the session, Punjab was having 6.8 million tonnes opening stock of foodgrain as against the much more than the last year of 5.1 million tonnes.  It was in fact due to slow movement of the stocks from Punjab during the year 2011-12.
Last year, a little more than two million tonnes was stored on unscientific manner and exposed to the natural calamities.  Wheat and rice are perishable items and cannot be stored in the open.  
This year, the expected storage on unscientific plinths or godowns is around d 3 to 3.5 million tonnes of wheat.
It is observed that the FIFO (First In First Out) system in dispatching the stocks to the deficit states is not adhered to with the result the longer storage stocks are damaged and ultimate loss to the nation. 
The procurement during the current year has also exceeded of 11 million tonnes target. Punjab has a storage capacity of over 20 million tonnes, out of which there is capacity of ten million tonnes under covered space which the rest is stored on unscientific open plinths covered with plastic tarpaulins, which cannot be retained for a longer storage.
The decision to export wheat following excess wheat production this year is a temporary solution for the current season whereas creating the storage space is only the long term strategy to save the stocks from rotting from natural calamities while stored in the open.
The government has to seriously thing over switching over from procurement to scientific storage on war footing.  
Another reason for non construction of covered space by the private sector is the less storage charges paid to the godown owners to repay the bank loans and also to save for personal living.  With the high cost of landed property and construction cost, the construction of godown is not viable with the existing storage charges as if the equivalent amount of investment on construction of godowns including the landed value is kept in bank in fixed deposits, the interest is much higher than the storage charges.  Even if the life of the building is taken 50 years, the rent paid is not economical and this is the reasons, the people are not coming forward to construct the godowns.
The government should serious think over revising the storage charges so that covered scientific godowns are prepared to save the stocks atleast for the two-three years.  
Construction of Silos as per the recommendations of Dr.Swaminathan at 150 places in India is also not feasible because of heavy investment and also affecting the jute industry in the south which will be shut down as in the silos, there is no need of gunny bags and the stocks are stored in containers and also moved in the containers to the deficit states.
The other alternative for making storage arrangements, to keep the bumper crops in scientific godowns, is to motivate the people or government itself construct the scientific godowns in the deficit states to accommodate the foodgrains from Punjab by tying up with the railways to move the stocks within the April-May itself at the time of purchase direct from the mandis to save the double storage and transportation charges.  
The government has to be serious about storage problems, by making it a study case, for long term planning to avoid the wastage of thousands of tonnes of foodgrain stored in the open on unscientific brick plinths.  
Punjab Newsline Network