Food Procurement and Distribution – PDS & NFSA, Shanta Kumar Committee, FCI restructuring, Buffer stock, etc.

[op-ed snap] Steps to stop the rot: on dangers of storing foodgrains in the open

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Agriculture | Public Distribution System – objectives, functioning, limitations, revamping; issues of buffer stocks & food security

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: PDS system, Food Corporation of India

Mains level: Foodgrain storage practices in India & how it leads to huge wastage of foodgrains


Context

Storage of foodgrains inefficient

  1. Most grain in India, which is procured from farmers by the government, is stored using the CAP, or cover and plinth method
  2. The agencies build a cement plinth and pile up foodgrains in bags and then cover all this with a tarpaulin
  3. India stores about 30.52 million tonnes of rice, wheat, maize, gram and sorghum in such structures at the Food Corporation of India godowns and hired spaces
  4. It is estimated that there is a 10% loss of harvested grain, of which 6% (around 1,800,000 tonnes) is lost in storage
  5. This means that the grain is so damp and fungus-ridden that it cannot be ground and passed on to the public for consumption

Effects of eating mouldy grains

  1. Eating mouldy grain causes a variety of illnesses
  2. According to a World Health Organisation paper, mycotoxins, which are found in mouldy grain/foods, are associated with human disease and produce aflatoxins (cancer-causing), trichothecenes, ochratoxins, citrinin and other toxins
  3. Aflatoxicosis causes abdominal pain, vomiting, hepatitis and (sometimes) death after acute exposure to high concentrations in food
  4. Chronic low dose exposure to aflatoxin can result in impaired growth in children

International storage practices

  1. In other parts of the world, grain is stored in silos
  2. Here, stored grain is kept dry and aired so as to prevent fungal and insect attacks
  3. The U.S. has a permanent storage capacity nearly equivalent to its annual grain production

Status of storage in India

  1. In India, the government has considered only four silos to be sufficient for the nation’s needs — one each in Kolkata, Chennai, Mumbai and Hapur-Ghaziabad
  2. The remainder of government-procured grain is stored in shoddy conditions
  3. In order to export basmati rice, Punjab has, in a public-private partnership, built modern, temperature-controlled grain silos with a storage capacity of 50,000 tonnes — but this is not for the Indian market

Way Forward

  1. Even though foodgrain production has been encouraged and increased, there need to be efforts to ensure that grain being procured annually is stored properly
  2. There is now an abundance of steel, cement and other building materials, money and the technological know-how
  3. The government should move on a war footing to store food grains in the proper manner
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