Reaped in North India, wasted in South

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It’s ironical. When ration shops in Kerala are claiming there’s not enough rice to sell under the Re 1 scheme, sacks of rice and wheat are rotting in the open in Food Corporation of India (FCI) godowns in the state where they are dumped in hundreds, thanks to the bumper crop this year in Punjab, Haryana and Andhra Pradesh.

While the wheat comes from Punjab and Haryana, ‘matta’ rice mainly arrives from Andhra Pradesh.

The current stock in these godowns could last for six months although under the rules no load can be stored for more than two-and-a-half months.

“The existing stock in Kochi itself is around 20,700 metric tonnes. Currently all FCI godowns have more stock than they can hold, and so we are forced to keep some of it in the open for want of space,” says a senior FCI officer.

Currently Kerala's maximum monthly demand from the FCI is only around 3,500 metric tonnes under the PDS system and for supply to wholesale agencies, but with the arrivals far exceeding the demand, officials say quality control operations are impossible to carry out.

“The rules make it clear that food grains cannot be stored for over two and a half months. But we have stocks dating back to 2008-09 as the state is violating the FIFO (First In First out) rule and is buying more stock without exhausting the old,” says one officer.

The FCI is reportedly now considering various options, including ad hoc allocations and export to tackle the situation.

“Currently the state supplies grains from FCI centres only to major cities as supplying to rural areas would mean higher transportation cost.

But it could buy at discounted rates under ad hoc allocations and supply food grains to more centres. We’re also considering export although our MSP is three times higher than countries like Russia,” adds the officer.

Meanwhile, railway officials say 10 more goods trains (around 500 rakes) are scheduled to arrive carrying food grains this month.

One loaded train has been stationed at the Mattancherry halt station for the past two weeks as the FCI godown there simply does not have the space for the new arrivals.

3 more FCI godowns to be set up in state

The Food Corporation of India (FCI) plans to soon increase its storage capacity in the state by setting up three more godowns and upping the capacity of the existing ones.

“The Centre has cleared the proposal to set up three more godowns with a storage capacity of 5,000 metric tonnes each at Chingavanam, Arappuram and Meenagadi.

Also, we’ll add to the storage capacity of a few godowns like the ones at Angadipuram and Malappuram,” says Mr John of Matha, area manager, FCI, Ernakulam region.

The move is part of FCI’s initiative to increase the capacity of its godowns by two lakh metric tonnes across the country.

While the work has already started in a few of states, the land identification process is on in others.
In Kerala, the FCI is also planning to set up huge storage silos in Kochi and Kozhikode.

“The Centre has already approved this, thanks to the efforts of Union minister, K.V. Thomas. The total capacity of the FCI centres here is dismal when compared to other states,” the official adds.

The space constraint in FCI godowns in the state is so alarming that a goods train carrying food grains has been stationed at the Mattancherry Halt station for close to two weeks as the godown there is already full.

“We’re paying a demurrage charge of `300 per wagon per hour which has touched `50 lakh already,” says an officer.

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