Govt to digitally integrate PDS granaries across country
The Union government is likely to begin work on a new, centralised system of food storage, digitally integrating state-run granaries and silos across the country, which store and distribute subsidised cereals to nearly 800 million beneficiaries under the National Food Security Act, according to officials of the food ministry.
The need for a plan to integrate and technologically upgrade grain storage was revealed by Union food minister Piyush Goyal during a review on Tuesday.
The Food Corporation of India (FCI), the country’s main grain handling agency, is the world’s largest stockholder of foodgrains.
The FCI, which buys grain from farmers at a state-set guaranteed price, has bought a record 41.3 million tonne of winter-sown wheat so far in the financial year 2021-22, an increase of 12.3%. The food agency also bought 80 million tonne of paddy during 2020-21.
Ever-increasing procurement stocks in government-run granaries have posed storage problems in the world’s largest wheat producer after China. Most of the stock is stored in a covered-and-plinth system, which refers to covered storage on raised platforms in godowns. These are frequently fumigated.
Also Read | Foodgrain stock highest since 2016: Govt data
Under the procurement system, the government buys foodgrains from farmers at assured prices and distributes it at subsidised prices to the poor, selling wheat and rice at ₹2 and ₹3 a kg respectively.
However, India has fewer modern silos, which are state-of-the storage highly secure facilities that prevent rotting or contamination. According to official data, not more than 0.006% of stored food goes waste in storage, which officials say is well within accepted norms.
“Although in percentage terms, this appears small, the absolute amount can be worth a lot,” said Abhishek Agrawal of Comtrade, a commodities trading firm.
In the review meeting, the Union food minister asked key policymakers and officials to come up with a “master plan” for storage facilities and land.
“Environment should be created for boosting public-private partnerships and investment,” a statement quoted the minister as saying.
The minister called for a “single, technologically modern storage management infrastructure”. He said that they must think in terms of convergence and aggregation of all storage infrastructure in the country.
Representatives of the ministry of food processing industries said the ministry was working with the private sector on 228 pre-cooling and chilled storage projects for perishable farm commodities.