The Union Government has chalked out a plan for modernising storage of foodgrains in steel silos. By 2024-25, all foodgrains in the country will be stored in modern silos and conventional storage facilities will be phased out gradually, Food and Public Distribution Secretary Sudanshu Pandey said on Thursday.

From this year, the government has decided to not give permission to store grains in covered plinth and areas that are open to sky. The Centre has cleared an additional 20 per cent capacity to warehouses that are capable of storing more grains. This single step has helped create an additional 160 lakh tonnes storage capacity in existing warehouses with a total capacity of 816 lakh tonnes, said Pandey at a press briefing here.

Procurement agencies have procured 64.7 lakh tonnes (lt) of wheat till Wednesday for the current rabi marketing season that commenced on March 15. The Centre is “confident” of procuring the estimated 427.36 lt of wheat, nearly 37 lt more than previous year’s record wheat procurement of 389.93 lakh tonnes.

While more than 30.1 lakh tonnes of wheat have been procured in Haryana, 20.63 lakh tonnes and 10.56 lakh tonnes of wheat have been procured in Madhya Pradesh and Punjab, respectively, so far. The total procurement during the corresponding period last year was mere 60 tonnes as the procurement operations were affected by the sudden lockdown imposed by the Union Government initially.

Pandey thanks Punjab govt

Pandey thanked Punjab Government, arhtiyas (commission agents) and farmers in the State for making direct bank transfer (DBT) possible for wheat procurement under the minimum support price (MSP) scheme for building buffer stocks. The stocks are procured by the Food Corporation of India for distribution of foodgrains through ration shops and under various welfare schemes.

He assured the arhtiyas that their commission too would be transferred directly to their bank accounts. Punjab and Haryana were the last two States in the country to move to the DBT mode and the scheme is implemented from the current rabi season.

“There is no stakeholder interest clash or encroachment in Punjab. Arhtiyas are receiving their commission separately through the electronic-mode of payment. Earlier, the MSP was going to farmers through arhtiyas and now it is being directly transferred to farmers online,” he said.

Pandey said so far ₹12,800 crore has been transferred to the bank accounts of 6,60,593 farmers in 11 States across the country. While procurement commenced in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan on March 15 and in Haryana on April 1, it started in Punjab on April 10. The Food Secretary said that the procurement will gain further momentum after Baisakhi, which was celebrated on Tuesday.

Pandey denied that substantial quantities of grains are damaged due to poor conditions of godowns in the country. He said the grains lost due to poor storage in last two years were 0.006 per cent and 0.004 per cent respectively.

According to Pandey, an additional storage capacity of 100 lakh tonnes is being created in India to improve the storage infrastructure. A steel silo of has already come up in Ahmedabad, while a pilot project is going on in Buxar in Bihar to test the viability of steel silos for long-term storage of rice.

The Food Secretary admitted that there is a price rise in oilseeds but attributed it to a number of international factors such as crop damage to oil crops in Latin American countries (Soyabean) and Ukraine (Sunflower). However, he also pointed out that the farmers in the country benefited as prices of soyabean and castor seeds are ruling above MSP.