Wheat grains ruined in Punjab due to official apathy

      Hundreds of tonnes of wheat have been ruined in Mullanpur and Raikot towns of Punjab due to official neglect after a recent downpour. Media reports state that poor storage facilities and negligence by officials have led to enormous stock of wheat to rot in the store houses of the Food Corporation of India (FCI) and Punjab Agro Industries Corporation Limited (PAIC). An official with the FCI denied any grain stock left had rotted due to negligence. "No. Our wheat grains are not rotting, not at all. I can't say about others, they have old grains. (They are) about one to two-year-old. But we have fresh stock," said Tralochan Singh, an Inspector with the Food Corporation of India, Punjab. Rain showers have spoiled heaps of gunny bags containing wheat, stacked in the open without any cover or protection. Today, this stock seems unfit for consumption even by cattle. "Ludhiana has a total of 100,000 tonnes of wheat grains. It includes the grains for both--this year and the last. Eighty thousand tonnes is this year's stock, which is all lying in the storehouses. About 20 to 25,000 tonne is last year's, which has not been lifted yet," said N. K. Sharma, General Manager, Punjab Agro Industries Corporation Limited (PAIC), the premier organization of Punjab Government, entrusted with the responsibility of promotion and facilitation of agro based industries including agro processing, dairy processing. Sharma added that there are around 117 metric tonnes of wheat grains that have been declared damaged by the PAIC. Various media reports suggest that wastage of food grains is not uncommon, as India has poor storage facilities. While India's economy is slowly recovering from a global recession with a GDP growth of 7.2 percent, millions of poor in rural India are finding it difficult to cope with around 17 percent food price inflation. Rising food prices have triggered widespread protests and stalled Parliament, mounting pressure on the government and the central bank to act against inflation. India is the world's second biggest grain producer, and has been producing more wheat than it consumes for the past three years. A record output of 82 million tonnes from the harvest that begins in March is expected this year, but rice output has suffered because monsoon rains in 2009 were recorded to be the worst in 37 years.

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