The agricultural sector in India accounts for about 14% of GDP and 10% of export earnings. India’s arable land area of 159.7 million hectares (394.6 million acres) is the second largest in the world, after the USA. Its gross irrigated crop area of 82.6 million hectares 9215.6 million acres) is the largest in the world. It ranks among the top three global producers of many crops like wheat, rice, pulses, cotton, peanuts, fruits and vegetables. In spite of these achievements, the crop yields in India are still around just 30% to 60% of the best sustainable crop yields achievable in the farms of developed countries. These are likely to be negated in the coming decades due to scientific and technologically improved crop production measures which would increase the quantity of food grains harvested and therefore the storage requirement would further increase. About 65-70% of the total food grains produced in India is retained by farmers for their selfconsumption or meeting their other financial requirements. The food grains at farm level are stored in traditional as well as in modern storage structures.Food grains are stored in bulk in these storage structures, which are neither rodent proof nor moisture proof. There are estimates that substantial quantity of food grains (about 6.0% to 10% of total production) are damaged in these storage receptacles due to moisture, insects, rodents and fungi and also due to transportation.
It has been estimated that about 65% of their total produce are held by the farmers for their consumption and use which is stored in a crude and unscientific method. The balance quantity is supplied to the central pool and delivered at the nominated warehouse or at the local mandi earmarked for procurement or delivery. The procurement agency collects the quantity deposited to the central pool by the farmer and transports the same to the FCI or nominated warehouse. Often the stock stored in the warehouses remain in storage for more than its shelf life due to want of off-take of stock by allotees like Targeted public distribution system (TPDS) and flour mill owners. Such long storage, if not taken proper care of, causes damage to the stock. Since the stock stored in the warehouse is not lifted, the storage space cannot be utilized for fresh arrivals of the ensuing season.
Challenges of storage facility in india
Storage of food grains in open space
Normally storage in open in the form of CAP is supposed to be resorted to during peak procurement seasons. The storage in the CAP should not be more than a year with at least one turn-over of the stock every 6 months to retain the quality of the food grains. Further, for proper aeration, the cover is to be removed at least 2 to 3 times in a week. Unfortunately, lot of stock is lying in the open where even the plinths are not available. During procurement season, for want of adequate CAP storage facilities, stocks are simply dumped/stacked on open spaces wherever feasible and much of these stock gets damaged because of seepage of water from the ground in the absence of proper plinth or height of ground or due to floods and rains.
Poor condition of storage facilities
Utter disregard to safe and scientific storage practices have resulted in excessive damages to food grains in the central pool maintained by SGAs in various states of india. In addition, failure to ensure early disposal of damaged stock led to blockage of storage space. The loss due to damaged stock is in million tones.
Efficient capacity utilization
For optimum capacity utilization of the existing capacity, timely and proper planning of movement and distribution of food grains across pan India is a pre-requisite. Despite storage constraints in FCI, the utilization of existing storage capacity in various states/UTs was less than 75% in majority of the months during the period 2011-12-2016-17. However, the capacity utilization may not be optimal due to reasons of sudden unanticipated increase in offtake for a particular region or due to unanticipated decrease in procurement.
Following important steps sgould be taken in order to boost the storage facilities:
- With proper foresight and planning in lifting the stock of the central pool in time from SGAs,money paid as hiring charges and carry over charges to SGAs can be utilized for construction of new storage spaces.
- Adequate manpower and supervision is required for scientific and safe storage in CAP storage.
- To save costs, proper plinths should be constructed in vacant government lands which can be used for temporary storage of food grains during peak procurement seasons.
- Hiring charges of FCI would continue to shoot up substantially in future unless owned storage capacity is augmented proportionately as against creation of storage capacity for guaranteed hiring by FCI.
- Poor and reckless management and cumbersome paperwork leading to non-availability of storage space even if the space is held by damaged stock for want of disposal approvals from FCI should be dealt with appropriately by decentralized decision making.
- Non adherence of safe and scientific storage methods should be dealt with an iron hand and the strictest ofü punishment is to be enforced and accountability fixed.
- The total number of covered storage required for meeting the deficiency of 35 million MT is 7000 godowns at the rate of 5000 tonnes per godown. At approximately 1,450 INR21 per tonne requirement of funds for the godowns, the total funds requirement at current rates for constructing 7000 numbers of covered storage is 5,075 Cr INR excluding the cost of land.
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