Punjab set for bumper crop, but no storage space

Lack of jute bags may delay clearance of grain from market

With wheat procurement set to begin in Punjab in less than a week, the crisis now is not just about the perennial problem of grossly inadequate storage space, but also of insufficient jute bags.

Agriculture estimates anticipate yet another bumper crop this season in Punjab. A whopping 140 lakh tonnes of wheat is expected to arrive in big and small grain markets during the season, up by 11 lakh tonnes over the year.

Experts say, this will require nearly 25 crore gunny bags, each with a capacity of 50 kg. The problem is, not even half the requirement is currently available.

The government says it paid money in advance for gunny bags from the Jute Corporation of India, but the requirement has not been met. This may cause inordinate delay in clearing the grain from the market, adding to farmers’ woes.

Some experts argue that the bags keep arriving while the procurement goes on at a designated pace in markets and the entire stock is eventually stuffed into gunny bags by the end of the season. 

Punjab Food and Civil Supplies Minister Adesh Partap Singh Kairon admitted that non-availability of gunny bags had become an issue in the past few years which is now being addressed. The procurement will begin from April 1 at 1,770-odd procurement centres, but bulk wheat will start arriving in markets only after Baisakhi, around April 14.

Like every year, shortage of scientific storage space in Punjab is a huge problem. Old stock of about 1 lakh tonnes is already stored in warehouses and there is space for only 60 lakh tonnes. The authorities are looking for space in sugar mills, yards and even in rice mills.

With several states contributing to the national poll, the movement of wheat stock out of Punjab has been slow. The Centre last year allowed 35 lakh tonnes of wheat to be exported from Punjab.

Over 95 per cent of the wheat produced in the state is procured by government agencies like Pungrain, Markfed, Punsup, Punjab State Warehousing Corporation, Punjab Agro Industries and the Central government’s Food Corporation of India.

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