There’s a Stink in the Godown

The bountiful harvest of Punjab is now raising a stink. At a time when the Opposition has held up Parliament over high foodgrain prices, over 12 lakh metric tonnes of rice, paddy and wheat have rotted in Punjab's godowns and on open plinths this decade — courtesy the problem of storing its plenty that revisits the state year after year. Of the total damage, 4.56 lakh metric tonnes belonged to the central agency Food Corporation of India (FCI), and 7.5 lakh MT to Punjab's five state agencies — Pungrain, Markfed, Punjab Agro, Punjab State Warehousing Corporation (PSWC) and Punsup.

Since the FCI stores the entire rice procured from the state for the central pool and only 15 per cent of the wheat, its damage figures are more for rice. Nearly 2.94 lakh MT rice and 1.18 lakh MT paddy (unmilled rice) have been declared as damaged by the agency between 2001 and 2010. In case of wheat, the damage amounts to 43,872 lakh MT, against nearly 8 lakh MT that rotted in the custody of the five state agencies, which store 85 per cent of the wheat procured for the central pool — over 90 per cent of it on open plinths.

Though a part of the actual cost was later redeemed by the FCI through auction of the damaged stocks as cattle and animal feed, industrial use or manure, the difference between the cost realised and the current prices of the foodgrains still adds up to a loss of Rs 56 crore.

The state agencies, in their claim-sheet to the Union Food Ministry, have claimed Rs 392 crore for the damage of 7.56 lakh MT wheat.

Together, the loss is Rs 448 crore of foodgrains in a country fighting hunger.

Rising stocks, falling private purchases

... contd.

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