The Centre is merging several schemes to develop the “world’s largest grain storage” scheme amid global food disruptions in the wake of the war in Ukraine and the Covid-19 pandemic. Schemes under ministries including the ministry of agriculture and farmers welfare, consumer affairs, food and public distribution and food processing will soon be merged, a report by Mint stated.
The disruptions in food supply and high prices have increased food security concerns in several countries. Ukraine and Russia are among the world’s largest suppliers of wheat, barley and fertilisers. India, despite having large arable land, suffers from low productivity.
“We have been lagging behind in terms of stored grains and storage capacity. So now, the government is trying to ramp up. The most important thing in the storage plan will be to see if it’s going to be modern storage or if the old system will be followed, where each man carries a sack and builds a storage pyramid. A mechanised system is far more transparent and much more modern. We don’t even have 2 million tonnes of storage in silos. The storage plan has been in the works for a long time, and it’s only now the government is trying to implement it,” Ashok Gulati, agricultural economist and former chairman of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices, told Mint.
India’s cereal stocks, held by the Food Corporation of India (FCI), fell to a five-year low in 2022. The storage capacity varied from 75 million tonnes (mt) to 85 mt in 2022. The Centre also extended its free foodgrain scheme, Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana, till December 31. Its total expenditure stands at Rs 3.9 trillion.
“It is a good idea to merge the schemes under which a grant is provided by the government of India for the creation of storage capacity through traditional warehouses, silos and cold storages. However, it must be noted that the state governments also contribute to most of the centrally sponsored schemes to the extent of 40 per cent. The real benefit of such storage will come only if there is compulsory registration of warehouses with the Warehousing Development and Regulatory Authority,” Siraj Hussain, a former agriculture secretary, told Mint.
At the recent G20 summit in Bali, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the current fertiliser shortage could endanger food security.