In the wake of commencement of the wheat procurement season this year, union minister of state for consumer affairs, food and public distribution, Prof KV Thomas, assured Punjab on Wednesday that its enduring problem of food grain storage would be gradually sorted out as the Centre had allowed the export of wheat by private players.
“Until now, only rice was being exported; but now, even the export of wheat has been allowed. This will lead to outflow of food grain, particularly wheat from Punjab, and thus create storage capacity for the fresh grain coming in,” Thomas said while talking to media persons here.
Pointing out that India had earned a name in the international market for the quality of its wheat, he said that nearly 30 lakh tonnes of the grain was exported last year. This figure would definitely go up, creating storage capacity, particularly in Punjab and Haryana, the minister added.
Thomas pointed out that private players could purchase wheat stored in FCI godowns under the central pool scheme and later export it.
The Centre was also focusing on the bulk sale of wheat under open market sale scheme (OMSS) from Punjab and Haryana by private traders with the sole objective of creating space for fresh arrivals, he added.
The Centre was also trying to augment food grain storage capacity through construction of silos. The food ministry under Thomas had already allocated 4 lakh tonnes of silo space to Punjab and this scheme would launch in the next couple of months after completion of certain formalities by the Planning Commission of India.
“Storage is a big challenge in Punjab and Haryana as other states have also started producing and procuring wheat for the central pool. Last year, 100 lakh tonnes of the crop was procured in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, which affected the movement of stocks from Punjab,” the union minister added. He pointed out that in 2011, four- to five-year old stocks were lying in FCI godowns but now this had come down to two years.
Reviews wheat procurement in Punjab
Thomas held a meeting with senior officials of the Food Corporation of India (FCI), Punjab government officials and officers of the Central Warehousing Corporation (CWC) to review wheat procurement and storage facilities.
Those present on the occasion included Sudhir Garg, executive director, FCI-north, Neel Kanth Avhad, FCI (Punjab), BB Patnaik, MD of CWC and DS Grewal, Punjab food secretary.
Grewal briefed the minister about the preparation made by the state government for wheat procurement this season. He said that the FCI and all state agencies were ready to procure the fresh arrivals in the state 'mandis'.
The state food secretary brought to the notice of the minister the issue of supply of jute bags for packing the procured wheat. The minister assured that if needed, more gunny bags would be made available to Punjab.
Thomas maintained that all state had been allocated their respective quotas of gunny bags. However, due to shortage of the same, polythene bags had also been dispatched, he added.
Grewal told the union minister that Punjab would procure around 140 lakh tonnes of wheat for the central pool. The problem of storage space was also made known to the minister.
Thomas also visited the Integrated Check Post (ICP) at Attari-Wagah border to see the operation of the container terminal that is under the control of the CWC.