Eastern push

Written by Sandip Das | Updated: May 8 2014, 02:20am hrs
In a bid to bolster foodgrain storage capacities in eastern India, the premier warehousing agency, Central Warehousing Corporation (CWC), has created more than 3 lakh tonne of storage infrastructure in Orissa and initiated several projects in Bihar and West Bengal in the last four years.

The foodgrain storage infrastructure in eastern regions has been a cause of concern for the government, as for many decades the region was rated rather low in the agricultural map of the country.

However, in the last six to seven years, due to the agriculture ministrys intervention, foodgrain production has increased sharply, thus creating storage challenges.

Orissa has emerged as one of the key states contributing to the central governments rice procurement drive for five years now. In the 2012-13 marketing season, Orissa contributed more than 5.3 million tonne to the central pool, out of the countrys total procurement of 34 million tonne.

However, the state has been facing an acute storage crunch, as the Food Corporation of India (FCI) has a limited presence in the state.

The Orissa government invited CWC to create foodgrain storage infrastructure, which was neglected in the last few decades.

Four years back, the Orissa government, in its new Industrial Policy Resolution (IPR), classified warehousing as an industrial activity, thus, entitled to get land at concessional rates.

The Orissa government entrusted the project to CWC under the Private Entrepreneurs Guarantee scheme of the food ministry that aims at increasing the countrys foodgrain storage capacities by 15 million tonne.

Since the land was available to us at a reasonable rate, we opted to build foodgrain storage infrastructure on behalf of the state government by reducing our fees for the designing and implementation of the projects, BB Pattanaik, managing director, Central Warehousing Corporation, told FE.

The Orissa government did not have an engineering department to execute such projects, thus we decided to be a partner in the endeavour, Pattanaik said. CWC is aiming to build 40,000 tonne of storage capacities during the next six months, on top of the 1.6 lakh tonne capacity it has built after 2010. Besides through collaboration with the Orissa Civil Supplies Corporation, CWC has created 8,600 tonne of grain storage capacities.

Under the Rural Godown Scheme, for creating intermediaries grain storage capacities, CWC has helped create 126 godowns, each with 300 tonne capacities, essentially used for paddy storage. Most of these storage space has been created at the village level where the Primary Agricultural Cooperative Societies (PACS) have been the key players in rice procurement in the state, Pattanaik noted.

However, CWC has created only 30,000-tonne storage facilities in West Bengal while the tendering process is on for building another 50,000 tonne capacities. Even in Bihar, creation of grain storage has been rather slow with only 1,200 tonne of capacities created by CWC in the last three years.

Since the Union budget 2010-11, a separate fund was being allocated for the eastern states, under a programme to bring green revolution to eastern India. The scheme, which comes under the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana, covers the states of Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, eastern UP, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and West Bengal. Rice was a priority crop under the scheme.

The other areas of focus were asset-building activities such as water management, construction of farm ponds and repair of irrigation channels.

CWC was established in 1957 for providing logistics support to the agricultural sector and it is one of the biggest public warehouse operators in the country. It also helps the Food Corporation of India (FCI) in creating additional storage capacities.

The corporation has 469 warehouses across the country, with a storage capacity of more than 10.3million tonne.