Home India News Stored wheat rots in Punjab as another bumper crop waits

Stored wheat rots in Punjab as another bumper crop waits

By Jaideep Sarin, IANS,

Chandigarh : Buffer stocks of wheat stored in the open across Punjab are rotting even as another bumper crop is ready for harvest.

Officials are worried about where to store new stocks as there are no spaces left in existing warehouses.

“We are already asking deputy commissioners to find more space to stock the wheat crop which will be procured from next month. The wheat crop this year is almost ready while the centre is not lifting the stocks of previous years,” Punjab Mandi Board chairman Ajmer Singh Lakhowal told IANS.

Procurement of wheat in Punjab and neighbouring Haryana officially begins April 1, though the bulk of the crop will hit the market just after ‘Baisakhi’ festival (April 13-14).

Over 7.2 million (72 lakh) tonnes of wheat are lying in warehouses across the state, some of it for the last three years. Of this, nearly 6.5 million (65 lakh) tonnes is lying in the open.

“In many of the warehouses, the earlier stocks are rotting and are unfit for human consumption, but the centre is not listening. Wheat worth crores is rotting because the centre is neither lifting the earlier stocks nor is it allowing the export of the excess stocks,” Lakhowal said.

The officials put the loss of the rotting wheat at a staggering Rs.500-800 crore.

“No one is bothered. While people in some parts (of India) are going without food, we are facing a problem of plenty,” a senior food and supplies department official said.

In Sirhind town, where one of the bigger storage facilities for foodgrain exists, tonnes of wheat in gunny bags are rotting in the open. The only protection that the stocks have are plastic sheets which get blown away in high velocity winds.

Punjab and Haryana last year jointly procured over 18 million (180 lakh) tonnes of wheat. The two states created individual records with Punjab procuring 11 million (110 lakh) tonnes of wheat and Haryana nearly seven million (70 lakh) tonnes.

Punjab alone contributes about 50 per cent of the foodgrain, wheat and paddy, to the national kitty annually.

Farmers in both the states are also agitated over government policies.

“The centre’s policy towards agriculture and farmers is completely faulty. While stocks are rotting, wheat export is not being allowed. Farmers are not given enough MSP (minimum support price) whereas foodgrains are imported at much higher rates when the need arises,” said Harpal Singh, a farmer near the Fatehgarh Sahib town.

(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at [email protected])