News

In India, Inadequate Storage Could Mean Wasted Food

An Indian woman walk past carts loaded with sacks of food items at a wholesale market in New Delhi, India, June 9, 2011.
An Indian woman walk past carts loaded with sacks of food items at a wholesale market in New Delhi, India, June 9, 2011.
Anjana Pasricha

India expects a record harvest of rice and wheat, but officials have warned that huge food stocks could be wasted due to lack of adequate storage facilities. The government has been criticized for holding on to huge surpluses while millions of people go hungry.

By the end of June, farmers across India will have harvested more than 250 million tons of wheat and rice. The bumper crops should be cause for cheer. Instead the country is confronting a challenge of plenty.   

The Food Corporation of India - which stores the grain - has told the Food Ministry that it has neither the warehouse capacity nor the manpower to manage the increase.

Every year, the government purchases millions of tons of grain from farmers to ensure they get a good price, for use in food subsidy programs, and to maintain an emergency stockpile.

Officials say this year’s record production could leave the government with 75 million tons of grain on its hands. With facilities only to store 63 million tons in state-run warehouses, millions of tons could be left out in the open, vulnerable to rain and attacks by rodents, or stored in makeshift spaces, covered by waterproof sheets.

Food Minister K.V. Thomas says the government is taking steps to reduce the huge stockpiles and make space for the new harvest. It has allowed traders to export surpluses and will lease warehouses for one year to expand capacity.  But Thomas admits that dealing with the surplus is a big challenge.    

“We should understand we are handling 70-71 million tons. It is just like a war-like situation. You have to procure," explained Thomas. "You have to store. You have to transport. And India is such a huge country. This is not an easy job we are doing. ”

Minister Thomas says they are also investing in modern food storage infrastructure. But he says that while food grain production has soared in the last two years, new warehouses are coming up more slowly because “they cannot be built in a day.”

Activists say the problem that needs fixing is not just storage - but getting the food to some 200 million people who are malnourished. U.N. agencies say India has the largest number of hungry people in the world.     

Biraj Patnaik, a commissioner to the Supreme Court who advises policy makers on issues relating to food security, says the problem has arisen because the government does not want to scale up the distribution of food grains to the poor.

He explains that just three states: Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana - grow most of India’s grain, and the food has to be transported to far flung areas.    

“What the government ideally ought to do is distribute it to the people who deserve the food grain to the poorest of the poor," Patnaik said. "In the short run, you need to increase the food subsidy in order to make this distribution happen, and the government is extremely reluctant to increase the subsidy.  In my opinion it is being penny wise and pound foolish.”  

The government is hoping to address such concerns. It wants to pass an ambitious law to give cheap wheat and rice to two-thirds of the country’s 1.2 billion people. The Food Security Bill has already been introduced in parliament and will be debated by lawmakers in the coming weeks.  

Food Minister Thomas says if the law is passed, much of the grain will be utilized.

“I am pretty confident because of the new Food Security Bill coming, it needs about 62-63 million tons of food grain, and the midday meal scheme, and the scheme for the pregnant women, so all these schemes once we implement, we need more food grains…so with these actions I think we will be able to contain a situation where there is a lot of surplus food grain in the country,” Thomas said.   

The waste of food grain has raised concerns in a country where more than 40 percent of children are underweight. Last year the Supreme Court ordered the government to supply more food grains to hungry people.

India grows enough food to meet the needs of its 1.2 billion people. It is estimated that about seven percent of food grains are wasted due to lack of storage space and inefficient transportation.

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: NP
April 28, 2012 10:45 AM
it is sad if food is wasted when there are places in the world, which are having famine causing hunger and malnutrition.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs