The Punjab government will ask the Centre for fast evacuation of bulging foodgrain stock ahead of the wheat procurement season as shortage of the storage space in the state has reached alarming levels raising fears of crop damage.
"We want from the Centre that the movement of foodgrain stock should be expedited on urgent basis so that the pressure on state storage capacity lessens for storing new crop" Punjab Food Secretary D S Grewal told PTI here.
Punjab will raise the issue with the Centre at a scheduled meeting of state food secretaries convened by Union Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution Ministry on February 21 to review wheat lifting arrangements, he said.
Punjab, which contributes over 50 per cent of wheat to the central pool, expects to procure 110 lakh tonne of wheat in 2012-13 Rabi marketing season starting from April.
The gloomy foodgrain storage situation in Punjab could be gauged from the fact that the state would have to store about 30-35 lakh tonne of freshly harvested wheat in an unscientific manner at rice mills, mandi yards or open space after exhausting all available resources for storing crop.
Last season, Punjab stored 20-22 lakh tonne crop in an unscientific manner.
"Against average opening stock of 52 lakh tonne in last three years this season we are going to have opening stock of 65 lakh tonne of wheat in April (when procurement starts) which have crop produced during last three years " he said.
Eighty six thousand tonnes of wheat was damaged in Punjab in the last five years due to poor storing system.
Problems for Punjab have been compounded by the fact that Railways have not been able to provide adequate rakes to speed up the transportation of food grains from Punjab despite being reminded numerous times.
"The state requires 22 rail rakes for movement of foodgrain to other states but it is getting only 17 rakes which is causing slow evacuation of stock," a senior official of FCI said here, adding that the FCI had also taken up the matter with Railways to augment the supply of rakes in the wake of commencement of wheat procurement season.
The Punjab government wants at least 20-25 lakh tonne of wheat and rice should be moved out of state per month, while just an average of 14-15 lakh tonne of foodgrain was being moved out at present.
After factoring in new storage capacity coming in March the agrarian state faces space shortage of 40-45 lakh tonne of food grain against the present capacity of 100 lakh tonne of covered space and 104 lakh tonne of Covered Area Plinth (CAP).
Against the 51 lakh tonne allotted capacity of new storage godowns, the sanction for 45 lakh tonne of new capacities have been given and out of which 12 lakh tonne is expected to come up by March in Punjab.