Hyderabad: The face-off between the Centre and Telangana over the flawed paddy procurement policy and the former’s reluctance to address legitimate issues may well lead to a crisis of sorts in the coming days. The delay on the part of the Food Corporation of India (FCI) to clear existing stocks from its warehouses in the State may see an unprecedented shortage of godown space for paddy. By March next year, the State would need storage space for at least 30 lakh tonnes of rice. The only option is for FCI to evacuate its existing rice stocks and work in coordination with the State government to lease additional storage space to tide over the crisis.
The FCI has godowns with a total capacity of 20.05 lakh tonnes in Telangana which includes its own godowns with about five lakh tonne capacity. Currently, rice purchased during Yasangi (Rabi) 2020-21 to the tune of around 18.6 lakh tonnes which mostly comprises parboiled rice, is lying in the FCI godowns. As per the agreement signed with the Telangana government, FCI must procure another 20 lakh tonnes of parboiled rice from the State for Yasangi 2020-21 season. For Vaanakalam 2021-22 season, the FCI had signed an agreement to purchase 40 lakh tonnes rice from the State government.
As a result, the FCI is bound to purchase about 60 lakh tonnes of rice before March 2022. Currently, the FCI is transporting about three lakh tonnes rice to other States and before March next year, it would be able to transport around 12 lakh tonnes to other States. Considering that about 18 lakh tonnes rice will be lifted by Telangana towards its annual consumption under Public Distribution System (PDS) rice, the FCI would be sitting on nearly 30 lakh tonnes of excess rice stocks without even having adequate godown space. Unless the FCI authorities wake up from slumber and expedite evacuating the existing stocks of parboiled rice from the State, it cannot prevent the upcoming crisis.
That being the situation, it is obvious that Union Food and Public Distribution Minister Piyush Goyal’s statement in Parliament was factually incorrect. He alleged that the Telangana government did not supply about 20 lakh tonnes of parboiled rice as per the agreement made with FCI to supply about 44 lakh tonnes for Yasangi (Rabi) 2020-21 season. However, it is FCI that failed to purchase the 20 lakh tonnes of rice due to lack of storage space in its godowns.
“Telangana has a milling capacity of nearly two crore tonnes of rice per annum. We are ready to mill any quantity of rice within a short span of time, provided the FCI is ready to lift the rice immediately as we cannot keep rice stocks for more than a couple of days. It is wrong on the part of the Union Minister to blame the millers for FCI’s fault in maintaining adequate storage space,” V Mohan Reddy, general secretary of Telangana State Rice Millers Association told Telangana Today.
Telangana State Civil Supplies Corporation chairman Mareddy Srinivas Reddy blamed the FCI for delay in rice purchases. He said though the State government and the millers were ready to supply Custom Milled Rice (CMR), the FCI authorities have been delaying purchases citing lack of storage space. “We have supplied about 28.98 lakh tonnes of rice for Yasangi 2020-21 season and the remaining stocks could not be supplied as the FCI is not ready to provide us sufficient space. As on Monday, about 720 lorries carrying around 29 tonnes each are waiting to unload the CMR at FCI godowns in 11 districts,” he said.
Further, the Centre has reduced the number of rakes (railway wagons) for lifting the rice stocks from Telangana and supplying rice to other States by about 23 per cent. As against 1,476 rakes allocated till November end during Kharif (Vaanakalam) season last year, only 1,096 rakes have been allocated till November end during the Kharif season this year.
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