Wheat worth Rs700 cr kept in the open in Punjab damaged in 4 years

A total of 4.72 lakh tonnes of wheat valued at Rs700 crore stored in the open by state procurement agencies in Punjab were damaged between 2012 and 2016, says the latest report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG).

These wheat stocks deteriorated lying in the open and had to be declared non-issuable under the public distribution scheme, according to the CAG report tabled in Parliament on Friday.

This means that on an average 1.18 lakh tonnes of wheat was damaged per year.

Wheat stock lying in the open areas in Punjab increased from 10.34 million tonnes in 2011-12 to 13.27 million tonnes in 2012-13.

Punjab produces on an average of 15-16 million tonnes of wheat every year out of which about 10-11 million tonnes is procured by the central and state government agencies.

This is also in part due to a delay in the implementation of private entrepreneur guarantee scheme (PEG) for construction of godowns in Punjab, either because of delays in award of contracts to private entrepreneurs in the XI Plan (2007-12).

Godowns with a total capacity of 4.99 million tonnes were to be constructed in Punjab under the PEG scheme within two years after finalisation of agreement for construction and Punjab Grains Procurement Corporation Limited (PUNGRAIN) was nominated as nodal agency by the state government.

The PEG scheme, launched in 2008, was intended to enhance covered storage capacities. "However, as on 31 March 2016 in Punjab, 5.36 million tonnes of wheat stock was lying in CAP/kutcha plinth/mandi with state government agencies (SGAs)/Food Corporation of India (FCI)," says the report.

At the same time, the CAG has pointed out that despite huge quantities of wheat lying in CAP/kutcha plinth, the FCI opted to  surrender leased capacity of six lakh tonnes in Sangrur and Faridkot districts between September 2012 and March 2016. A significant quantity of wheat was exposed to the vagaries of weather in these two districts.

"Due to wrong measurement of distance (from godowns to railheads) by PUNGRAIN and the FCI at the initial stage, the FCI had to pay more for the transportation for the excess distance and incurred excess expenditure of Rs 8.36 crore," reads the report.

According to the audit report, in 74 per cent of cases the actual distance of the godowns from the railhead was different from what was specified by private entrepreneurs in the bid documents.