Procurement agencies of Punjab disposed of 1.93 lakh tonnes of rotten wheat, which was beyond even animal consumption, in 2015 and grain worth Rs 290 crore was sold off at dirt cheap prices. The grain thus disposed of could have fed over 34 lakh people for a year, the population of Ludhiana district as per the 2011 census.
State officials say wheat continues to rot in the open storage, called the cover and plinth (CAP) storage in official lingo, which means wheat filled in gunny bags stacked over a cemented floor and covered with a tarpaulin.
To check this loss, the Food Corporation of India (FCI) has planned to convert the entire CAP storage into steel silos. In the first phase, silos with a total capacity of 16 lakh tonnes have been sanctioned for Punjab and 15 lakh tonne capacity in the next phase.
“We had taken a policy decision to shift the entire wheat from the CAP storage to steel silos, and not even a single grain will be kept in the open,” said FCI general manager (silos) Aseem Chhabra. Steel silos would be set up in Barnala, Chheharta (Amritsar), Patiala, Sangrur, Jalalabad (Fazilka), Dhuri (Sangrur) and Batala with capacity of 50,000 tonnes each, a total of 3.5 lakh tonnes.
The FCI has offered two locations — Kotkapura with 25,000 tonne capacity and Sahnewal with 50,000 tonne capacity — to state government agencies to set up steel silos.
The Punjab government is also building silos having a capacity of 11.75 lakh tonnes, says sources. The Punjab state warehousing corporation (PSWHC) will get silos at 20 different locations having a capacity of 6.75 lakh tonnes and Pungrain at 10 locations with a capacity to store 5 lakh tonnes.
Punjab has the capacity to keep 145 lakh tonnes of food grain in CAP storage and 32 lakh tonnes of the grain is stored in the open.
Storage in steel silos, which involves automated, mechanised handling of grain, has 0% grain loss norms. “Currently, we suffer a loss of Rs 150 crore every year by losing 0.39% of the total grain transported from one state to another for the PDS,” Chhabra told HT. “Though the loss is below the fixed norm of 0.4% losses in transportation, still it is at the higher said,” Chhabra said. The FCI moves 450 lakh tonne of wheat every year between states, he added.
PUNJAB WINS DEBATE
The state seems to have won the debate on silos to be built in the consumer states and not in producer states – Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh. “It is a policy decision to have matching storage capacities in producer and consumers states as there is a need to preserve the grain as soon as it comes from the fields,” said FCI regional general manager based in Punjab, Kumar Rahul.
As per the current practice, food grain reaching markets is filled in gunny or polythene bags, which involves a cost of Rs 1 per kg. Bag filled food grain is then stored in open and covered godowns.
The cost of storing 1-lakh tonne of food grain in gunny bags is Rs 10 crore. However, with silos, grain filled in trailers is directly taken to the storage point.