Punjab asks Centre to clear foodgrain stock

Severe space crunch raises fear of crop damage

The Punjab government has asked the Centre for fast evacuation of bulging foodgrain stock ahead of the wheat procurement season.

The shortage of the storage space in the state has reached alarming levels, raising fear of crop damage, the experts said.

"We want that the Centre should expedite the movement of foodgrain stock. So that the pressure on state's storage capacity lessens, giving space for storing new crop," said D S Grewal, Punjab Food Secretary.

Punjab will raise the issue at a scheduled meeting of state food secretaries on February 21. The meeting will be convened by Union Consumer Affairs and Food and Public Distribution Ministry to review wheat lifting arrangements, he added.

Punjab contributes over 50 per cent of wheat to the central pool. It is expected to procure 110 lakh tonne of wheat in 2012-13 season. Rabi marketing season starts from April.

The gloomy foodgrain storage situation in Punjab could be assessed from the fact that the state would have to store about 30 to 35 lakh tonne of freshly harvested wheat in an unscientific manner at rice mills, mandi yards or open space after exhausting all the available resources for storing crop, agriculturists said.

Last season, Punjab stored 20 to 22 lakh tonne crop in an unscientific manner, they added.

Eighty-six thousand tonnes of wheat was damaged in Punjab in the last five years due to poor storing system. Problems for Punjab have been increased as the Railways have not been able to provide adequate help for the transportation of foodgrain stock from Punjab.

"The state requires 22 rail rakes for movement of foodgrain to other states but it is getting only 17 rakes which is causing slow evacuation of stock," a senior official of FCI said.

The Punjab government wants at least 20 to 25 lakh tonne of wheat and rice to be moved out of state per month, while just an average of 14 to 15 lakh tonne is being moved out at present, the official added.

The new storage capacities for almost 45 lakh tonne stock have been sanctioned. Out of which 12 lakh tonne storage space is expected to come up in Punjab by March.

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