6.6 MT wheat under risk of monsoon damage

Over 6.6 million tonnes of wheat worth over Rs 1,100 crore of the government stock lying in the open runs high risk of damages during the monsoon season, the Food Minister K V Thomas admitted on Thursday.

'We are concerned about 6.6 million tonnes of wheat kept open in unscientific way mainly in Punjab, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. We will give utmost priority to move this wheat to safe place in monsoon,' he told reporters here.

Thomas has also written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh suggesting a cap on procurement. 'We have to work out a mechanism to limit the procurement as per our needs,' he said.

At present, the government has a stock of 82.3 million tonnes against the storage capacity of 64 million tonnes. Of 50 million tonnes of wheat procured by the government, 27 million tonnes is kept in the open, of which 6.6 million tonnes is lying in an unscientific way.

Thomas noted that although storage capacity of FCI has increased by 40 per cent in last five years, there is still storage deficit as the government procurement reached an all-time high following record output of wheat and rice for the last two consecutive years.

He said that the Food Ministry in consulation with Food Corporation of India [FCI] has chalked out a plan to immediately evacuate the wheat under threat of damage.

As a contingent measure, the FCI has been directed to raise stack size in case of both wheat and rice. 'This way, FCI would be able to accomodate 5-10 lakh tonnes more stock,' he said. FCI has been directed to hire private storage space including those of cooperative sugar mills.
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