Sunday, March 24, 2002, Chandigarh, India


L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S


India has record stock of foodgrains: FCI
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, March 23
Worried over the mounting buffer stocks of foodgrains in the country, the Union Government has set up a high-powered committee of officials and farm economists to devise ways and means to reduce the stocks to a reasonable level without causing any adverse impact on the farming community. The committee, headed by a noted farm economist and former Chairman of the Agricultural Costs and Prices Commission is expected to submit its report to the government very soon.

This was stated by Mr V.K. Singh, Senior Regional Manager, Punjab region, Food Corporation of India (FCI), while addressing a news conference here today. Mr Singh, who was here to inaugurate the first regional conference of FCI Officers’ Association, said that the country presently had a world record buffer stock of food grains running into some 60 million tonnes and another 22 lakh million tonnes were expected to be added to the existing stock with the procurement of the coming wheat crop. He said despite the acute shortage of storage space and the foodgrain stocks in the region, bursting at seams, no damage to the foodgrain was reported during last two years. In the Punjab region an additional covered storage space of 25 lakh tonnes was also added during the year.

According to Mr Singh, joint efforts made by Union Ministry of Food and the FCI, the export of wheat and rice to the countries in South East Asia, Middle East and Africa had made big strides and 76 lakh tonnes of foodgrain had already been exported. “Punjab region alone has exported 20 lakh tonnes of rice, which is quite an achievement towards reducing the glut of foodgrain in the buffer stocks.”

Referring to pilferage and other irregularities during procurement, handling and transportation of foodgrain, he said these were gigantic operations, involving massive manpower of various other agencies, besides the FCI. However, the FCI management was very clear about fixing responsibility for shortage of stocks beyond the permissible limit of .5 per cent and during the year one class I officer of the rank of District Manager and 80 class III officers had been dismissed from service. Another 380 cases involving major penalty were under process. Claiming that all arrangements were in place for procurement of wheat and the FCI would start the purchase immediately after the date being notified by the government, Mr Singh said that the FCI would purchase about 30 per cent or almost 34 lakh tonnes in terms of quantity of wheat during the coming season in the Punjab mandis.

Earlier, the conference, attended by more than 300 FCI officers from all over the state, expressed its serious concern over the penal action being taken by the management against the officers for shortage of foodgrain from the stocks beyond permissible limit of 0.5 percent.

“The storage conditions of foodgrain are not ideal and the norms for handling, storage and transportation are irrational and unscientific.” Mr Tuli and several other speakers pleaded for a scientific study on storage and handling of foodgrain and revise the specifications for shortage, taking into account all the physical and chemical changes.

The conference also deliberated upon anomalies in the pay scales and adverse service conditions of FCI officers. 



Announce MSP for rabi crops: BKU
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, March 23
The Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) has expressed concern over the delay in announcement of minimum support price (MSP) for wheat and other rabi crops.

The BKU president, Mr Ajmer Singh Lakhowal said in a press statement here today that a delegation of the BKU had met the Union Minister for Agriculture, Mr Ajit Singh, the Union Minister for Chemicals and Fertilisers, Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa and other members of the Union Cabinet in Delhi earlier this week to impress upon them the need for announcement of MSP for the coming rabi crops.

The union, he added, had demanded that the MSP for various crops should be worked out on the basis of the price index during 1966-67. Going by that principle, the MSP for wheat worked out to be Rs 980 per quintal. “The proposal of the Ministry for Agriculture sent to the government for effecting a hike of Rs 15 per quintal in the MSP of wheat is ridiculous,” he said.

Mr Lakhowal further termed the decision of cutting down subsidy on fertilisers as fatal for farm economy and demanded that the five per cent increase in prices should be immediately withdrawn to save farmers from ruin.

He, however, hailed the government proposal of granting permission to mix 5 percent alcohol with petrol, saying the government needed to follow the pattern of Brazil where a mixture of 20 per cent alcohol with petrol was allowed. “The step will provide big relief to the farmers, besides leading to tremendous benefit to environment,” he said.

Lambasting the government for failure to take effective steps for diversification of agriculture, the BKU chief asked the government to not only announce remunerative prices of crops which were to replace the wheat - paddy rotation but also to take upon itself the responsibility of purchasing these crops at the assured prices.

Although the Union Government had announced MSP for barley, mustard and raya last year but the Punjab Government had failed to purchase these crops and the farmers were left at the mercy of traders. 


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