India boosts grain production, modernizes warehouses
August 01, 2008
by Arvin Donley
Production of food grains and oilseeds in India is on the rise despite intense pressure on agricultural land due to urbanization and other non-agricultural uses.
According to IIIrd Advanced Estimates, India’s food grain (rice, wheat, coarse cereals and pulses) and oilseed production in 2007-08 was 227.8 million and 22.21 million tonnes, respectively, compared with 209.8 million and 20.7 million tonnes at the beginning of the decade. This is largely due to increased test weight. In 1999-2000, the average test weight was 1,704 kilograms (kg) per hectare (ha) of food grains and 853 kg/ha of oilseeds, compared with 1,829 kg/ha and 1,067 kg/ha in 2007-08.
In a recent interview with World Grain, Dr. Akhilesh Prasad Singh, the Honorable Minister of State for Agriculture, Consumer Affairs Food and Public Distribution, discussed the measures the government has taken to increase food grain production and improve the quality of grain storage facilities in the world’s second-most populous country (1.1 billion).
Already one of the world’s biggest wheat producers — the International Grains Council has predicted a 2008 crop of 74.5 million tonnes — India has the potential for even greater output, Singh said.
"There is vast potential for enhancing productivity of wheat in Eastern India, particularly in Eastern UP, Bihar and part of West Bengal," Singh said. "Potential also exists in MP and Maharashtra."
Part of the reason for India’s surge in agricultural productivity is government-initiated programs that have increased irrigation coverage, enhanced water-use efficiency and provided a more balanced use of fertilizers. He noted that a recent increase in wheat irrigation in Gujarat has led to an increase in wheat area of about 200,000 ha.
"The micro-irrigation scheme of the DAC (department of agriculture) has been launched to promote sprinklers and drip systems of irrigation and to economize water usage, thereby covering more with the use of the same quantity of water," Singh said.
During the past year, the National Food Security Mission was launched in 31 districts of 17 states with outlay of about $1.14 billion to promote various ways of increasing productivity, such as using micronutrients in rice, wheat and pulses. Singh said the Mission also aims to increase the area dedicated to pulse production to about 4.05 million ha, which is likely to increase production by 2 million tonnes by the end of the 11th Plan (2012).
ENSURING QUALITY STORAGE
Developing programs to increase grain and oilseed production is just part of the Indian government’s mission to improve food security for its people. Equally important is ensuring that there is adequate and quality storage space for the food grains and oilseeds once they are harvested.
In India, there are two main agencies engaged in storage of food grains — Food Corp. of India (FCI) and Central Warehousing Corporation (CWC).
"FCI is the key agency to implement the national food policy," Singh said. "Its aim is to protect the interests of producers by providing minimum support prices corresponding to the quality specifications to avoid exploitations by middlemen, and (to protect the interests) of consumers by providing quality food grains at reasonable prices."
Singh said that even though there has been a huge increase in the prices of food grains in the international market during the past year, the Indian government has been able to keep prices "under control."
"The rise in the price of rice and wheat in the domestic market has been very modest," he said.
Singh said FCI takes rigorous steps to ensure quality grain storage. He said regular inspection of the stored product and storage facilities by qualified and trained staff is undertaken, and timely fumigation is performed wherever required.
As of April 30, 2008, FCI had a total storage capacity of 24.3 million tonnes and had 15.2 million tonnes of grain in storage. "The current situation in India in terms of food grains storage capacity is adequate," Singh said.
He said FCI has proposed expanding storage capacity by 341,000 tonnes during the 11th Plan (2007-12) with an estimated budget of about $38.3 million, (excluding the cost of land) in some states, subject to the availability of Indian government funds and the ability of state governments to provide suitable land. Singh noted that FCI has had some difficulty in obtaining suitable land from state governments for construction of grain warehouses, particularly in the hilly areas of Northeast India.
CWC supplements FCI’s work by providing adequate storage capacity to preserve food grain in its warehouses. "All precautions relating to the preservation of quality as well as quantity of the stocks are undertaken by the qualified and trained warehouse personnel," Singh said.
CWC has 490 warehouses with a total storage capacity of 9.8 million tonnes. Utilization is 82% of capacity for all commodities including food grains, he said.
In recent years, the greatest demand for grain storage and handling equipment has been in the flour milling sector, he said.
"The consumption of wheat-milled products such as Atta, Maida and Sooji is increasing in the urban areas," Singh said. "Therefore, there is a growth in the flour milling industry."
In 2000, the Indian government announced a national policy on handling, storage and transportation of food grains. Under this policy, integrated bulk handling, storage and transportation facilities have been constructed through private sector participation on a build-own-operate basis.
Singh said that RITES, a government of India enterprise that provides engineering, consultancy and project management, was appointed consultant for inviting global tenders.
After evaluation of the technical and financial bids, M/S Adani Agri Logistics Ltd. of India was selected to construct bulk grain storage and handling facilities at different locations throughout the country. Other international companies that manufacture grain storage and handling equipment, such as GSI Grain Systems, Assumption, Illinois, U.S., have also secured contracts for projects in India in recent years.
Singh said the Project for the Development and Operation of Bulk Food Grains Handling, Storage and Transportation Facilities awarded to Adani Agri Logistics would likely be completed this summer.
"After reviewing the utility and benefits of modern grain storage facilities, including a cost-benefit ratio created by M/S. Adani Agri Logistics Ltd., further course of action for creating modern storage facilities in other parts of the country would be considered," Singh said. email@example.com. For reprints of WG articles, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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