Tuesday, May 28, 2013


Food grain surplus available with Government of India is increasing every year due to the diligence of the farmers and decent procurement prices ( MSP) offered to them. On one hand MSP provides the farmer a safety net so that he is not exploited by the traders while increasing flow of grains into government granaries is creating an infrastructure jam in the form of inadequate safe storage facility and lack of quality and management factors. In spite of strictures from the Supreme Court on the wastage of grains year after year, very little has been achieved so far address the storage problem. Suggestions are made from time to time regarding the best way to get rid of the stored grains held beyond the food security linked storage level though Government is still not sure as to how this food surplus is to be tackled. Latest view on this subject is bizarre in that it suggests that eligible consumers are to be supplied with their 3 years' grain requirement at one go to get rid of the grain stock! Here is a take on this "hilarious" suggestion.      

The paper noted central agencies had excess stock even after taking into account what was needed for the FSB. The authors calculated that stocks with the Food Corporation of India (FCI) would be in excess of 30 million tonnes as on July 1. The value locked in these ranges from Rs 70,000 crore to Rs 92,000 crore. The paper suggested states where the Public Distribution Systems have been integrated with Aadhaar, the citizen identification number, be allowed to lift 36 months of their off take requirements at a discounted price. The discount, the authors suggested, would be equal to the cost of carrying by FCI. These states can ask consumers to lift their 36 months' quota at one go, with a discount on the PDS price. That way, consumers can get a larger quantity of grain and FCI would have more storage space. One of three other alternatives suggested is an open market sale scheme at last year's MSP, beside a maximum of five per cent taxes, cess and others.

Those who make the above suggestion must be out of their mind because they have no idea as to what will happen to the quality of grains if they are stored at the consumer end. Food grains are vulnerable to infestation by insects, prone to attack by rodents and can cause irreversible changes in quality and nutrition progressively with time. Even the FCI, government's food grain procurement and storage arm finds it difficult to prevent spoilage in spite of their scientifically constructed storage structures and how can one expect that a family can keep the grains safe for 3 years? One should not forget the oft repeated claims by food experts that post harvest food losses in the country can be any where from 25% to 40%! Both Planning Commission as well as the government officials including the Prime Minister routinely talk about such food wastage in the country though at the ground level not much is being accomplished to save these grains from spoilage! This suggestion is outlandish and it only will enable the government to shift its responsibility of protecting the food to the poor citizens.  


No comments: