Grains rot in Uttar Pradesh godowns

     Grains are rotting in large quantities in godowns located in Shikohabad district of Uttar Pradesh, while millions go hungry, owing to the state government’s apathy. India's wheat inventory at government warehouses surged to a record 50.2 million tonnes as on June 1, exposing more stocks to rot as unattractive global prices have hobbled government efforts to export from its overflowing grain bins.

India's entry into the global market could further dent benchmark US wheat prices, which dropped 10 percent last week after much-needed rains hit drought-hit parts of Russia and on higher-than-expected yields from the US winter harvest. Much of India's grains are left out in the open exposed to potential decay as state-run warehouses can store only 63 million tonnes against the total 82.4 million tonnes of current stocks, which includes some coarse grains such as millets.

According to media reports, there have been several protests, where people have forcibly entered godowns and seen foodgrains lying in the open. Deputy District Magistrate, Shikohabad, Ravindra Singh, said the situation would be taken into consideration, and then, a decision would be taken regarding the same. “I will assess the situation tomorrow morning and if it is true, then we will take the necessary steps. If this has happened, it is wrong,” he said.

While wheat stocks were well above the official target of 4.0 million tonnes for the quarter ending June 30, rice inventory for the same period was 32.1 million tonnes against a target of 12.2 million tonnes, government sources said. The government aims to add up to four million tonnes of storage capacity by the end of June, one government source has said, still leaving a substantial gap. The government's storage problem has worsened as farmers have just finished harvesting another record wheat crop, forecast to be 90.23 million tonnes in 2012. Demand runs at about 76 million tonnes a year. India grows only one wheat crop in a year, with planting from September-October and harvests from March.

Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde on Wednesday rejected a Haryana Khap Panchayat's decision that marriageable age for girls should be reduced, saying one should abide by the law.The government encourages wheat production by fixing a support price as it needs to ensure enough supplies to cover its commitments to feeding the poor, who make up about 40 percent of its 1.2 billion population. A sharp rise in the price the government pays to buy wheat from local farmers has led to bin-bursting harvests since 2007, exacerbating storage problems in the world's second-biggest wheat producer.

Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, known for his pro-farmer policies, has been a driving force behind higher prices to wheat growers. The government has raised the price it pays to buy wheat by more than 70 percent since 2007. Brimming granaries forced India to lift a four-year old ban on exports in September but lower global prices have scuppered efforts to trim bulging stocks, forcing the government to store wheat under tarpaulin. Only about one million tonnes of wheat has been exported so far.

The Food Corporation of India, the main state-run grain buyer, buys food stuffs such as wheat and rice from local farmers at a fixed price to protect them from a distress sale, provide cheap grains for the poor and meet any emergency needs.

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