It lacks facility to store 20 million tonnes of grains, says Minister

Crippled by the lack of storage facility for about 20 million tonnes of food grains, the Centre has asked States to lift PDS food grains necessary for at least the next six months.

After participating in a seminar on ‘Food security – role of standards’, organised by the Bureau of Indian Standards here on Wednesday, Minister of State for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, K.V. Thomas, told reporters that the storage capacity of the Food Corporation of India (FCI) was 64 million tonnes whereas the present stock was 82 - 83 million tonnes. This was three times higher than the buffer needs.

At present, the States were lifting food grains from FCI godowns and storing them in PDS shops. Now, the Centre has asked the States to have intermediate godowns where six months of stocks could be stored. There are funds available under different schemes for setting up such intermediate godowns.

Admitting that 61 lakh tonnes of wheat were under makeshift storage at present, he said that the Centre was taking up the issue of better storage facilities with major wheat-producing States such as Punjab and Haryana. The issue could also hit Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Rajasthan – States expected to produce more this year.

However, Mr. Thomas said the damage due to lack of storage facilities had come down drastically over the past five years. Of the 82 million tonnes, the damage would be less than one lakh tonnes.

Expecting bumper production this year, he said that wheat production was estimated at about 902.30 lakh tonnes with procurement at 370 lakh tonnes for PDS. Rice production would be over 1,034 lakh tonnes with procurement at about 353.15 lakh tonnes.

Subsidy for State

He said that the Centre’s food subsidy to Tamil Nadu amounted to Rs.6,420 crore as the State’s offtake of rice was 37.57 lakh tonnes and wheat, 1.65 lakh tonnes.

With the proposed additional allocation of five million tonnes for BPL families, the State, which was one of the States with the highest offtake, would get 3.72 lakh tonnes more, resulting in the subsidy going up by Rs.691.27 crore, Mr. Thomas said.

While the economic cost of procurement of rice was about Rs.21.10 per kg, the Centre supplied it to State governments at Rs.5.65 a kg for PDS distribution to BPL families.

The State’s request for a particular rice variety was being looked at, according to Mr. Thomas.