The five procurement agencies of Punjab suffered losses of wheat worth Rs 1,600 crore in six years -- from the rabi marketing season of 2008-09 to 2013-14.
As per a study report compiled last month by an additional managing director-rank officer of Punsup, one of the state procurement agencies, a total of 8 lakh tonnes of wheat was damaged.
Poor storage facilities and slow foodgrain liquidation by the Food Corporation of India (FCI), the central agency that runs the public distribution system in the country, are seen as the reasons for the damage.
Liquidation is the process of releasing foodgrain stocks in the domestic market.
Apart from ascertaining its own losses, Punsup assessed stocks of Pungrain, Markfed, Punjab Agro Foodgrains Corporation (PAFC) and the Punjab State Warehousing Corporation (PSWC).
Wheat stocks with the PAFC suffered the maximum damage. In the 2008-09 rabi season, 7% of its wheat stocks got damaged (78,645 tonnes out of 11.12 lakh tonnes of wheat procured). In the next season (2009-10), 49,163 tonnes of wheat were damaged out of 11.68 lakh tonnes of foodgrains procured (4.21% loss).
In the 2010-11 rabi season, the PAFC reported 4.34% loss, while the damage was 45,079 tonnes. In 2011-12, 70,810 tonnes of wheat were damaged (5.84% loss).
Of the 8 lakh tonnes damaged, 5.5 lakh have already been declared totally damaged. The state government has no mechanism to fix the responsibility of any officer or agency for such huge losses.
Food dept blamed for Punsup losses
In the 2013-14 rabi season, no damage of wheat was reported by Punsup, whereas the other four agencies reported high damage.
As per the report, the agency suffered a damage of 1.32 lakh tonnes of wheat in 2011-12, 5.37% of the total procured wheat, due to non-liquidation of stocks after the FCI’s refusal to take these over from December 13, 2013.
According to the report, the state department of food and civil supplies is yet to take up the matter with the Centre for allowing liquidation of these stocks. “Despite repeated requests made by Punsup for early disposal of wheat stocks, no decision has been conveyed by the state food and civil supplies department,” it adds.
However, DS Grewal, secretary, food and civil supplies, blamed the FCI for increasing damages. “The FCI is very choosy in picking up stocks from Punjab. A very minor damage invites their rejection and they ask us to upgrade stocks, which is practically very difficult and involves huge labour and time,” Grewal said. Hinting at a bias against Punjab on the FCI’s part, he said it (FCI) asked the state to send claims on the condition of approving only genuine ones, and on very few occasions were Punjab’s claims found genuine.
Need to dispose of damaged wheat
The report further said that about 2 lakh tonnes of damaged wheat of all state agencies was lying at various centres for disposal through tenders which have to be called by Pungrain.
“This damaged wheat is affecting the quality of the rest of the wheat stocked during the rabi seasons of 2012-13, 2013-14 and 2014-15. In case the damaged wheat is not disposed of, it would lead to deterioration of the rest of the stock,” the report added.