Acknowledging that damage to grains rotting in government warehouses is ''shameful'', agriculture and food supply minister Sharad Pawar told Parliament on Tuesday that ''aggressive'' measures would be taken to increase storage capacity in the next two to three years. The government was also considering giving infrastructure status to warehouses to attract the private sector into the field.
Responding to a calling attention motion by BJP leader M. Venkaiah Naidu in the Rajya Sabha, Pawar said, ''We will invest from the government side and encourage the private sector as well as state governments to invest in warehousing, because rotting of foodgrains is shameful. We are in consultation with the finance ministry to give infrastructure status to warehouses.'' The minister said that with a proposal like the food security bill, the government needs to have at least two years' stocks for which storage capacity is required.
The public-private partnership plan for godowns, floated to pull private investors, will now offer 10 years of assured contracts to investors by the Food Corporation of India (FCI), the largest state-run grain agency, Pawar said.
The country has posted the highest ever wheat yield in 2009-10 at 80.71 million tonnes, but does not have space to store its piling grains. Nearly 16 million tonnes of outdoor stocks are threatened by rain.
MPs asked why the government was not focusing on decentralising storage. Several MPs said the ban on wheat export should be lifted if stocks were not manageable.
Pawar said 67,542 tonnes of grains have been found damaged in storage in the current fiscal so far, of which 11,000 tonnes were held by FCI, 54,260 tonnes by Punjab and 1,574 tonnes by Haryana. "However, the quantity damaged must be seen perspective of total quantities handled and larger quantities being kept in CAP (outdoor storage) due to heavier procurement,'' Pawar's reply said.