Thursday, June 14, 2012

Problem of plenty, Govt at sea

Correspondent/ Chandigarh

The centre should ensure speedy movement of grains. At present, only 4 lakh tonnes is moved a month against the monthly demand of 10 lakh tonnes.

This year wheat collection in Haryana is set to create records as procurement is expected to cross 75 lakh tonnes on back of bumper output, but storage remains a big worry. Haryana had recorded the highest wheat purchase for central pool at 69.28 lakh tonnes in 2011-12 rabi marketing season.
This time, the total procurement is likely to cross 75 lakh tonnes which will be the highest ever purchase in the history of the state, a senior official of Haryana Food and Supply department said. Before the procurement started, the state government had set a target of 70 lakh tonnes. The crop purchase had already crossed at 68.81 lakh tonnes, up 21 per cent.
"The daily crop arrival still ranges between 2-3 lakh tonnes in Haryana. There is a great possibility that new record (of wheat procurement) will be set today itself," an official said.
The state is witnessing heavy arrival of the crop. The state authorities have even banned farmers from bringing wheat from adjoining Uttar Pradesh villages.
Haryana contributes almost 30 per cent to central pool. The state is targetting a record wheat yield in the current season on the back of favourable winter season, with a productivity of 47.50 quintals, the highest ever in the state.
The state has pegged the output at 118.61 lakh tonne, with an area of 25.05 lakh hectares.
However, a likely record procurement has also raised concerns about storage of the crop in the view of insufficient storage space and slow movement of foodgrain stock to other states.
"There will certainly be a problem in storing wheat because of shortage of storage space," the official said. The state authorities feel that whopping 80 lakh tonnes of wheat will need to stored in the open and could get damaged due to the monsoon season.
"We made arrangement for storing 70 lakh tonne of wheat with a great difficulty and now crop procurement surpassing our assessment, it will make our task (storage) further difficult," he said.
The Haryana government would be writing to the Centre to speed up the movement of wheat and rice to foodgrain deficit states.
The state is also concerned about the slow movement of grains -- about 4 lakh tonne of grain is moved a month against the monthly demand of 10 lakh tonne.
The state has covered capacity of 48.79 lakh tonne, while Covered Area Plinth (CAP) is 30 lakh tonne.
Meanwhile, the Central government had admitted a mismatch between procurement and storage and said efforts were on to ease pressure on godowns by encouraging exports and providing foodgrain to MNREGA workers as part of wages.
Answering a question in the Lok Sabha, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee admitted a "mismatch" as godowns lacked storage space when there had been a "record production" of rice and wheat.
He said that earlier 30-40 per cent of the total production of foodgrain used to be purchased by the government and the rest taken care of by the market.
But in the last 2-3 years, due to high minimum support price, procurement had become the primary responsibility of central and state governments and their agencies, he said.
Referring to the shortage of jute bags to store foodgrain, he said to augment their availability, the government was trying to import them, even as two lakh MT of storage capacity has been added.
While plastic bags had been banned, the government was following international norms for packaging of sugar, wheat and rice stored in biodegradable jute bags, he said.
Besides providing several tax and other concessions to create more storage capacity, exports were being encouraged and the Rural Development Ministry was working on providing foodgrain to MNREGA workers as part of their wages. State governments have to be involved in this, he said.
Mukherjee's remarks followed a 10-minute adjournment of Lok Sabha proceedings after members of NDA, Left, RJD and SP created a furore over farmers plight, saying foodgrains were rotting and getting destroyed in rains due to lack of storage at a time of record wheat and riceoutput.

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