Grain Mountain Amidst Food Insecurity

The official stock of food-grain with the Food Corporation of India stood at 77.7 million tonnes as of March 1. This includes 27.5 million tonnes of wheat and 50.2 million tonnes of rice. The rice estimate includes a significant quantity of unmilled paddy. This mountain of grain is among the highest level that the government has held in its stock. It is far in excess of what is required by the norms defined by the government itself. And this large stock is prior to the coming rabi harvest, which is expected to be bumper, and will add further to the stock. The coexistence of high stocks with the government amidst rising hunger and starvation, is a peculiarly Indian phenomenon, and this is not the first time such an anomaly needs to be highlighted. Food-grain procurement and the public distribution system (PDS) are designed to meet three objectives: food security, food price stability and adequate remuneration to farmers with minimum support prices. There is an inherent inadequacy in using just one instrument to achieve all three objectives. Add to it, the other factors like inefficiency of large bureaucracies, lack of coordination between Central and State agencies, pilferage and wastage, lack of storage capacity, knee jerk policy responses like imports and exports of food, it is no wonder that this elaborate system has failed to address the problems of hunger and nutrition.

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