About 4.5-lakh-tonne stored wheat worth more than Rs 370 crore is rotting in the custody of Punjab’s five procurement agencies, the Food Corporation of India (FCI) has found out in a fresh survey done till April 30.
If preserved, the wheat could have fed 76 lakh people for a year, going by the central public distribution system (PDS) norm of 60-kilogram wheat annually for each person.
The FCI has declared the stock “beyond human consumption” and wrote to the agencies a fortnight ago to dispose it off, since the central agency that drives the PDS would not take the delivery.
The FCI’s giving “non-issuable” tag to the stock procured between 2009 and 2014 means a loss of more than Rs 370 crore to the state, which would add to the gap of Rs 20,000 crore between the value of stock supplied against the funds received for procurement (difference that the Centre is claiming back from the state).
State agencies Punsup and Punjab Agro Food Corporation (PAFC) have highest rotten wheat stock — 1.76 lakh tonnes and 1.16 lakh tonnes, respectively, followed by Markfed and Pungrain — 85,000 tonnes and 76,200 tonnes, respectively. The Punjab State Warehousing Corporation (PSWC) figure is much lower at 2,744 tonnes. In 2015, the state agencies had disposed of 1.93 lakh tonnes of rotten wheat.
“We have to classify the rotten wheat to fix rates and call tenders for disposing of,” said an officer of the state food and civil supplies department. Rotten feed for animals and poultry sells for this price.
The officer accepted the damage, but there seems no mechanism in place to hold anyone accountable. “The state officers blame the damage on open storage usually but even the FCI wheat is exposed to the weather elements and yet its loss is much less,” said an FCI officer.
‘3.4 LAKH TONNES SALVAGEABLE’
The FCI has cautioned Punjab to separate good wheat from bad while there is time. It has identified 3.4-lakh-tonne wheat from which something can be salvaged, else this stock, too, will be declared rotten and the loss to the state in that case would be colossal.