Replying to a query during Question Hour in the Rajya Sabha, food and agriculture minister Sharad Pawar said that between 2005 and 2008, FCI handled about 2,780 lakh tonnes of foodgrain and the percentage of damage was only 0.09%.
No detirioration in foodgrain was reported from the godowns of the FCI during the period from 2005 to September 2008. However, about 2.49 lakh tonne of foodgrain with the FCI in the Central Pool was damaged during the same period, Pawar said. He said that the damage was caused due to various reasons, such as cyclones and floods, while some quantities were damaged due to acceptance of below specification stocks and movement to other regions.
The minister clarified that rotten foodgrain was useless, while damaged grain was supplied to state animal husbandry departments on a priority basis and on their refusal, auctioned in the open market. Pawar said that the government sometimes purchased foodgrain below the specification norms on the insistence of farmers. He informed that the FCI has taken action against over 1,000 of its officials during last three years for various irregularities. The action taken against errant officials include dismissal, compulsory retirement, termination, suspension and withholding of promotion. The minister also said that the government would set up godowns in more states as the FCI does not have sufficient godowns to fulfill its requirement. He also said that when there was high level of procurement, foodgrain was sometimes kept in the open as a temporary arrangement.
Indias foodgrain stocks as on October 1, 2008 is estimated to be over 30 million tonne way above the buffer requirement, mainly due to a bumper harvest in wheat and rice and record procurement by state agencies. State-run agencies have managed to procure around 23 million tonne of wheat during the current marketing season that will end in March, much above the normal buffer requirement of 15 million tonne, while rice procurement is also tipped to cross 28 million tonne.
Traders and industry sources said that the massive surge in procurement has been possible because of a bumper harvest and a hike in the minimum support price. Wheat output during the current marketing year has been projected at over 78 million tonne, up from around 75 million tonne last year. while rice output during the ongoing kharif season has been projected at a record of 83.25 million tonne, up from an earlier estimate of 82.81 million tonne. EoM