Low storage space for India’s growing harvest!

Rashi Aditi Ghosh/ZRG

India’s official storage capacity has failed to keep pace with the growth achieved in food grain production during the last six years. As a result a mere one third of food grains produced can currently be officially stored in the country while the food grain production during 2007-8 to 2008-13 grew by 11 per cent.

The deficit in storage has grave implications on the administration of the Food Security Act under which government proposes to give five kilo gram of cereals per person to 67 per cent of the nation`s population at a subsidized rate.

The official storage capacity grew from 1.3 million tonne in 2007-08 to 71.8 million tonne in 2012-13 representing 54 per cent increase. However, despite this growth only about 28 per cent (as of 2012-13) food grains produced can be currently stored by the government in the country.

The food grains production in India grew from 230.78 million tonne in 2007-2008 to 255.36 million tonne in 2012-2013. The procurement on the basis of production of Wheat, Rice and coarse grains was recorded at 40 per cent, 33 per cent and .19 per cent respectively during 2012-2013.

Highlighting the inadequate crop related infrastructure in the country, National Advisory Council member (NAC) Dr. Naresh C Saxena says, “Every year millions of procured food grains get damaged because India severely lacks adequate storage and relieving facilities.”

The government is seized of the issue and has mounted efforts to upgrade the storage infrastructure. The storage capacity at 28.12 per cent of total food grains produced in 2012-2013 is actually the highest during last six years.

Food Corporation of India’s (FCI), which is the nodal agency for management of food grains procured, inefficiency in building the requisite infrastructure hasn’t escaped the attention of global agencies like the World Bank. Identifying the procurement policy as the main culprit for the damage of food grains, the World Bank said in a statement, “The FCI’s inefficiencies not only lead to high losses of the grains it handles but they also drive up the costs of food handling. Comparisons show that the FCI’s handling and storage costs are significantly higher than those of the private sector. The increase in procurement has led to a significant increase in the fiscal costs of the system.”

Dr Saxena at NAC suggests a change of approach to improve the crop management system in India. “To curb down the wastage of food grains, it is important to establish better contact between the farmer and the consumers,” he adds.