India’s grain stores are overflowing while millions go to bed hungry


Devinder Sharma presents the facts, summarised here:

Though rice exports have touched 10 million tonnes, making India the world’s biggest rice exporter, and close to 9.5 million tonnes of wheat have been exported this year, India has a massive and unprecedented food grain (rice and wheat) stock of over 100 million tonnes.

Storing the next harvest – an additional 44 million tonnes – will be daunting task for the government agencies. For almost 30 years now, successive governments have failed to accord any priority to food storage and distribution. Food has never been on the top of the national agenda.

grain stored in indiaIn the past few years, the UPA coalition has made massive investment in building 250,000 panchayat ghars (local government structures) but has no money to construct warehouses across the country.

Worse still, since 2004-05, UPA has given Rs 32 lakh-crore tax exemptions to corporates, trade and business. These exemptions are listed under the category ‘revenue foregone’ in  budget documents. For 2013-14, the ‘revenue foregone’ is Rs 5.73 lakh crore – as 1 lakh crore equals $20 billion, the revenue foregone is approaching £120bn.

Sharma believes that if government focusses on agricultural production, procurement and distribution in a decentralized manner, much of the agrarian crisis would disappear. He recommends a three-pronged approach:

1)      Set up a wide network of mandis (markets) and temporary purchase centers across Bihar, eastern Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Odisha, Assam and the other northeastern states.

2)      Extending higher minimum support price to pulses, millets and fodder to shift the focus to other crops essential for maintaining nutritional security.

3)      At least Rs 1 lakh crore should be taken out of the ‘revenue foregone’ category, and invested in setting up a network of grain silos, warehouses and godowns across 50 places spread throughout the country.

All this is possible if food is accorded utmost priority in national thinking and planning.


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