Would panchayats organise food storage effectively?
About 10m tonnes of Indian wheat and rice are at risk of rotting due to exposure to monsoon rains – equal to a sixth of its stocks. This has become a hot political issue, as images of wheat piled carelessly at state warehouses are shown on television.
42m tonnes of this national stock are kept in covered warehouses, while at least 17m tonnes is piling up outdoors under tarpaulins, inadequately protected from the elements. Experts say about 10m tonnes – enough to feed 140m people for a month – risks being totally ruined.
As many poor Indian households are suffering from spiralling food prices, India’s Supreme Court has required the government to explain why the surplus food cannot be given to the poor. “In a country where people are starving, wastage of even a single grain is a crime,” it said.
Is local production [storage] and local procurement the key to success?
Reading this report in the Financial Times underlines the need for change, as Devinder Sharma [Delhi] writes: “Local production [storage] and local procurement is the key to any successful food security initiative”.
Or would it be better to follow the eloquent advice of Patricia Hewitt, chair of the UK India Business Council who accompanied the UK prime minister on his visit to India?
See notes on her advice and character in the next post.