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.
New Implant Could Help Restore Movement to Paralyzed Limbsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
Maia Pujara
July 07, 2015 10:01 PM
A half-million people suffer spinal cord injuries each year because of car accidents, serious falls and diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are now working on a soft but strong spinal cord implant that could one day restore movement in paralyzed individuals. VOA’s Maia Pujara reports.
Video

Video New Implant Could Help Restore Movement to Paralyzed Limbs

A half-million people suffer spinal cord injuries each year because of car accidents, serious falls and diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are now working on a soft but strong spinal cord implant that could one day restore movement in paralyzed individuals. VOA’s Maia Pujara reports.
Video

Video Getting it Done Beyond a Nuclear Deal

If a nuclear deal is reached between Iran and world powers in Vienna, it will be a highly technical road map to be used to monitor nuclear activity in Iran for years to come to ensure Tehran does not make nuclear weapons. Equally as complicated will be dismantling international sanctions that were originally intended to be ironclad. VOA’s Heather Murdock talks to experts about the key challenges any deal will present.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.

VOA Blogs