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Enough grains for 70m Indians rot due to poor storage - report

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Tue, 27 Aug 2013 06:15 GMT
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A woman winnows wheat crop at a wholesale grain market on the outskirts of the western Indian city of Ahmedabad, on May 7, 2013. REUTERS/Amit Dave
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NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Enough food grain to feed 70 million people for a day was left to rot due to a lack of proper storage facilities in India, a newspaper reported, highlighting the infrastructural gaps faced in a country where millions live in hunger.

According to the report in the Times of India, at least 17,546 tonnes of food grains in warehouses owned by the state-run Food Corporation of India (FCI) were damaged between 2009 and 2012. The FCI is responsible for procuring food grains from farmers for distribution to the poor under highly subsidised rates, and for maintaining buffer stocks for national food security.

"As per World Health Organization guidelines, a minimum of 250 grams (of) food grains is required per person per day to survive. The cumulative loss could have fed at least seven crore (70 million) people," said Dev Ashish Bhattacharya, an activist who had gained the information from the FCI under India's Right to Information Act.

Despite being one of the world's biggest food producers and experiencing years of rapid economic growth, India is home to a quarter of the world's hungry poor, according to U.N. figures.

Experts say one of the biggest problems in feeding its people is a lack of and poor storage facilities. Often the grain is stored outside warehouses with not enough sacks and tarpaulin sheets, exposing it to rain, rodents and other elements.

Last week, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar told parliament that inadequate storage infrastructure resulted in wastage of fruits, grains and vegetables worth almost $7 billion every year.

The Indian government is set to push the new Food Security Bill through parliament this week. The $22 billion welfare scheme will sell subsidised wheat and rice to 67 percent of its 1.2 billion people.

However, critics say it is not only too costly for India, but it will also fail to make a difference unless adequate infrastructure for storage and distribution are made available.

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