Grain storage: Creation of modern silos way below target

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March 17, 2021 1:00 AM

As the protesting farmer leaders against the three contentious farm laws have been alleging that warehouses were first created by corporates to store the foodgrains followed by the amendment in the Essential Commodities Act, the creation of silos may further slow down.

The total value of storage loss of FCI was Rs 457.13 crore in 2013-14, according to official data.

Nearly five years after the government announced an ambitious plan to create 100 lakh tonne capacity of silos under public private partnerchip (PPP) mode, only 8.25 lakh tonne of such modern warehousing space has been created, the government said in Lok Sabha.

As the protesting farmer leaders against the three contentious farm laws have been alleging that warehouses were first created by corporates to store the foodgrains followed by the amendment in the Essential Commodities Act, the creation of silos may further slow down.

“ln order to upgrade and modernise the storage facilities, the government has chalked out an Action Plan in 2O16 for construction of steel silos on PPP mode in the country. Silos with capacity of 3O.75 lakh tonne at various locations throughout country have been awarded.

Out of which a capacity of 8.25 lakh tonne is complete and remaining is under various stages of development,” food minister Piyush Goyal said in a written reply in Lok Sabha on Tuesday. Of total created capacity, 4.5 lakh tonne is in Madhya Pradesh and 3.75 lakh tonne is in Punjab.

Actually, the target was to complete the construction of silos in three phases by FY20 and there was inordinate delays in the process from the very beginning, first at approval stage in Niti Aayog and later at the implementation stage, sources said. One reason for which it got delayed was on the ground that the storage loss has been continuously reducing even with traditional warehousing system, sources said.

The storage losses of Food Corporation of India (FCI) came down drastically to 0.03% in 2019-20 from 0.22% in 2012-13. The total value of storage loss of FCI was Rs 457.13 crore in 2013-14, according to official data. The total food grains damaged during 2020-21 was 1,806 tonne, as on February 28. One of the major advantage of silos is that it requires only one-third area of a traditional warehouse to store the same quantity of grains with vertical expansion and with complete automation of loading and unloading.

According to former chairman of FCI Siraj Hussain, “if wheat can be procured at silos, the procurement incidentals incurred in APMC mandis or procurement centres of co-operatives can be saved.” Though some quantity was procured from farmers at silos in Punjab and Haryana, the Centre could not avoid 2.5% commission of arthiyas. From this year onwards, FCI is trying to procure wheat in Punjab without paying arthiya commission for which it has asked the state government to share farmers’ data so that payment is directly transferred into their bank accounts.

In a separate reply, minister of state for food Danve Raosaheb Dadarao said in Lok Sabha that conventional warehouses as well as silos have been planned in place of “dilapidated godowns, end-of-life godowns, cover and plinth (CAP) complexes and on vacant land of FCI.” While the total capacity of FCI (including hired godowns) to store Central Pool foodgrains is 80.7 million tonne, the stock was 56.2 million tonne as on January 31.

Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait has been alleging in most of his public meetings across the country that the amendment in the EC Act was done to help corporates stock the grains for which warehouses have been built before the changes in the laws. The government has removed stock holding limits for several foodstuffs such as cereals and pulses while making it linked with price rise of 50% (non-horticulture produce) and 100% (horticulture produce) within a fixed period.

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