ibnlive » India

Mar 16, 2013 at 12:38pm IST

Lack of covered storage space for food grain poses big challenge for government

New Delhi: Despite government's promises to build more godowns for food grain storage, India has no space to store at least one-third of the 900 lakh metric tonnes of rice and wheat that is expected to be ready by June, 2013. Stark images from 2012 highlighted the acute lack of storage space for food grain procured for the central pool.

In 2013, when procurement begins on the April 1, the available stock in the central pool would be 620 LMT. By June, with procurement expected to cross 400 LMT and a monthly offtake of 55 LMT, the available stock would be 900 LMT.

"We are in touch with states. We are seeing what can be done if covered space is not available," Amar Singh, Chairman and Managing Director, Food Corporation of India said.

Not much headway has been made to construct godowns under the Private Entrepreneur Guarantee Scheme that was launched in 2008. A total capacity of 181.08 LMT was approved by a high level committee of which, just 43 LMT has been completed.

Creation of another 20 LMT in the form of Silos was approved in February 2012. However, almost a year later, tenders for the Silos are yet to be floated.

Therefore, the total covered space available with both the Centre and the states is approximately 533 LMT. Another 183 LMT is available as open storage in the form of cover and plinth. However, rice cannot be stored in the open and experts say wheat has to be moved out within two months.

"Last year, about 70 lakh metric tons of wheat was kept in katcha plinth but we moved back each and every grain to the 3 to 4 food deficit areas and ensured that there is no loss. This year, expectations are that in pucca and katcha plinth, the quantity will go up. About 100 lakh metric tonnes will lie in katcha plinth," Amar Singh said.

As in the past years, the government is yet again pushing for exports primarily to create space for the new wheat. A total of 4.5 million tonnes have been approved for exports of which approximately 2 MT have been shipped out so far and more exports are likely. Food Minister KV Thomas is keen to avoid a repeat of the past year but creation of covered storage space for foodgrain has not kept pace with the increase procurement.