In a bid to track real-time stock positions and quality of grains stored, the Food Corporation of India (FCI) is linking all its 553-odd godowns through an online network by the end of current fiscal. Currently, the corporation is conducting trials of this online platform at 30 depots located across the country.
“Earlier, most of the operations in the depot used to be handled manually at the local staff. The online network of depots would track all the operations of procurement, storage and movement of grains through a centralised system,” an FCI official told FE.
The online platform would also track storage and transit losses, gunny bag inventories and labour management, among others. “Real-time information provides accuracy in inventory and improves quality of stocks,” the official said. However, the depot online system work will be completed in the rest of the 1,288 godowns hired by FCI from Central Warehousing Corporation, state warehousing corporations, etc. only by the end of next fiscal. The total cost of putting all the 1,842 depots online would be around R200 crore. The software and hardware of the online system had been developed by a private player, Ricoh India, which was selected through a bidding process.
“The existing system of manual upgradation of grain stocks data in the various depots and on the transit would be done away with and, through online tracking of stocks at the various depots, the movement of transport trucks would be also monitored,” the official said.
Automation of the entire process, from entry and exit of foodgrains at FCI depots, would curb theft and diversion. At present, in the most of the depots, there is computerisation to some extent, through which fortnightly grain stock positions are generated. However, all other operations from loading to unloading of foodgrains, is carried out manually.
The high-level committee on FCI restructuring chaired by former food minister Shanta Kumar last year had recommended end-to-end computerisation of the entire food management system, starting from procurement from farmers to stocking, movement and finally, distribution ,through the Targeted Public Distribution System. FCI handles around 55–60 million tonne (MT) of foodgrains, mostly consisting of rice and wheat annually.
Food minister Ram Vilas Paswan recently stated that that depot online project is a part of an overall vision of the government to transform the food distribution supply chain in the country. It would facilitate process automation, standardisation and efficiency of the management of foodgrain distribution, and would enable real-time monitoring of operations and timely data reporting.