The Centre has asked the Punjab Government to completely do away with 93 lakh metric tonne (LMT) of covered and plinth (CAP) storage in the state and focus on scientific and closed structures for foodgrain. The state has been given three years for converting all open storage facilities into covered structures.

However, the state is in a dilemma over the issue as it wants the Centre to give it some guarantee for the usage of the capacity they create either on their own or through private entities. As the two sides get locked in the nitty-gritties of the issue, nearly 100 LMT of wheat is currently stocked in the open, vulnerable to the vagaries of weather as well as pest infestation.

Official government sources admit that the directions from the Centre had been received and the state was in agreement for the construction of closed storage facilities. The state plans to construct closed foodgrain storage structures, having a combined capacity of 63 LMT. To begin with, all state food procurement agencies — PUNGRAIN, Punjab Warehousing Corporation, Punjab Agro Industries Corporation, PUNSUP and MARKFED — will be building 2 LMT of the covered storage each.

“The problem, however, is that who will pay the rent for the storage facilities and ensure that the highly cost intensive infrastructure that is created, remains economically viable. There could be times where there is no use of the storage facilities, as Punjab moves an average of 20 LMT of grains to the recipient states each month,” said a senior government official.

However, Punjab is planning to launch the Expression of Interest (EOI) for creating this storage soon, even as the Centre has indicated that a guarantee would not be possible and that it should create structures on the same pattern as Haryana (which is also a food producing state).

Interestingly, other than the state government, the Food Corporation of India (FCI) itself is contemplating creating silo storage of 19.75 LMT in the state. Confirming this, AS Thind, chief general manager, FCI-Punjab, said the proposal was still in a nascent stage. He said Punjab already had 5.50 LMT of silo storage. “As more scientific storage is created in the state, the stock damage will be reduced substantially, he added.

Source: 05 July, 2021, The Tribune