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Food ministry faces a problem of plenty now

Food minister KV Thomas is under pressure to ensure that the toil of farmers is not wasted."It's my duty to make sure that food grains don't rot," he said.

, ET Bureau|
Updated: Apr 26, 2012, 07.00 AM IST
NEW DELHI: As news of record food grain production trickled from the corridors of the agriculture ministry, officials of the storage wing in the adjoining food ministry began working overtime to save the department the embarrassment of plenty.

Food minister KV Thomas is under pressure to ensure that the toil of farmers is not wasted. "It's my duty to make sure that food grains don't rot. We are on our way to create enough storage capacity to accommodate the brimming production," he said.

Stock Position

The stock of food grains in the central pool is around 53.5 million tonne, comprising 33.3 million tonne of rice and 19.9 million tonne wheat. In the current season, the government plans to procure 32 million tonne of wheat, taking the central pool past 50 million tonne.

The food department's storage capacity is 63 million tonne. It is likely to add another 3 million tonne this year. But is this adequate to handle the unprecedented production followed by record procurement?

"Our godowns are utilising only 85% capacity. We will utilise them to the full. We have also asked FCI to hire private godowns this procurement season," Thomas said.

Harvest & Post-harvest Loss

According to a nationwide survey on estimated post-harvest loss conducted in 106 districts related to 46 crops, total economic value of harvest and post-harvest loss of crops and livestock produce is about Rs 44,000 crore at the national level. This is around 65% of the total food subsidy the exchequer incurs every year.

The loss in selected cereals was found to be in the range of 3.9% and 6% while for pulses the loss was in the range of 4.3% and 6%. For oilseeds, it was in the range of 2.8% and 10.1%. "The loss of food grains including transit and storage losses occur during operational activities in Food Corporation of India (FCI) due to loss of moisture, spillage, pest infestation, theft, bird or rodent problems," the food minister had said in Parliament.

Way Ahead

The food ministry is mulling selling wheat in the open market to retailers and bulk buyers under the Open Market Sales Scheme (OMSS) to clear its stock and free up storage space.

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