Punjab starts process to build covered foodgrain storage of 63 lakh tonne
Chandigarh Three months after the Centre directed the state to phase out the covered area plinth (CAP) storage, or open plinths, for storing foodgrain, within three years, the state has rolled out the process to build a capacity of 63 lakh tonne. The state government, however, has not yet agreed to the Centre’s proposal of constructing covered godowns without tenure or rent/lease guarantee.
Officers of the state’s four procurement agencies, the Pungrain, the Punsup, the Markfed and the State Warehousing Corporation, discussed the phase-out plan on Thursday. The idea is that 95 lakh tonne open plinth storage in Punjab will be done away in proportions of 25%, 35% and 40% over three years. Grain stored in open plinths are vulnerable to the vagaries of weather and the cost runs into crores.
Of the state’s storage capacity of 262 lakh tonne, only 42 lakh tonne is covered under the private entrepreneurship guarantee (PEG) scheme of the Centre. These godowns are being run under the Public Private Partnership (PPP) mode.
“We asked for the Centre to give guarantee in terms of tenure and rent/lease as my department apprehended that otherwise there would be no takers among private players. The Centre turned down our proposal and asked us to build godowns without the guarantee, so we have started the process,” said Rahul Tiwari, principal secretary, food and civil supplies.
Tiwari added that the Centre was told that state can’t spend at least ₹4,500 crore for the approved capacity and had decided to involve private players. According to him, of the 63 lakh tonne storage capacity mandated by the Centre, 12 lakh tonne would be constructed and operated by the four state procurement agencies. For the remaining 51 lakh tonne, it is proposed that private players be involved.
“Each agency has been asked to construct 1 lakh tonne storage capacity each year for three years, for which they would raise the funds,” Tiwari added. The department has decided to draw up a proposal and take it for cabinet’s approval, following which the tendering process will begin.
Sixty locations have been identified for building covered godowns, and most of these are where open plinths exist at present. A storage capacity of 19 lakh tonne silos storage has also been sanctioned in the state for which a separate proposal is being rolled out.
As 45% of the total (640 lakh tonne) foodgrain stock in the country is stored in Punjab (at least 300 lakh tonne) and there is no space in state godowns to store more, Punjab has also asked the Centre to increase movement.