The Food Corporation of India (FCI), the central government agency for public distribution and procurement of foodgrains in the country, is going slow on lifting of rice shelled in the current kharif season and its contribution in paddy procurement for the year 2013-14 is also just over 3%.
Sources in the Punjab State Agricultural Marketing Board (Mandi Board) say 10 lakh tonne of rice shelled in the current season is piling up in the mills waiting to be lifted by the FCI.
Of the total 150 lakh tonne of paddy procured in Punjab by five state-owned procurement agencies, private millers and the FCI, the latter has procured 4.5 lakh tonne, which is just 3% of the total procurement.
Chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, in a communique to the central food ministry, has brought to its notice the state's unease, but to no avail.
Interestingly, 3% of procurement is out of the 10% quota allotted by the Punjab government to the FCI. "For the remaining 7% share of the FCI, we had to rush the state's procurement agencies, which created a lot of chaos in the procurement process," said Mandi Board vice-chairman RS Cheema.
The FCI has cut down its share of paddy procurement from about 30% of the total wheat in 2000-01 to 15% in 2012-13, paddy from over 31% in 2000-01 to negligible 3% in the current season. Also, lifting of the shelled rice which begins simultaneously with the paddy procurement is being slowed down. The shelled rice of kharif season 2011-12 and 2012-13 is still waiting to be lifted while the rice stocks of the current season have started piling up. Out of 81 lakh tonne of rice expected this season, 10 lakh tonne is already out in the market to be lifted by the FCI.
"Because of slow lifting of rice by the FCI and its negligible role in procurement of foodgrains, especially paddy, Punjab's procurement agencies are on the verge of bankruptcy as because of the poor storage arrangements and slow movement of wheat and rice out of Punjab the quality of foodgrains is deteriorating, adding to huge accumulated losses," said Cheema.
Though the FCI sees nothing wrong in the cut, the Punjab government officials say it is part of a well-planned strategy on part of the national food procurement agency to keep itself away from the procurement complexities at the ground level.
FCI DGM (quality control) Aseem Chhabra said the FCI's main focus was on quality foodgrains, adding that it was a policy decision of the FCI to focus less on the number and make the distribution efficient.