In the first part of this three-part series on Scientific Disposal of Buffer Stocks, we spoke about how and why the government procures buffer stocks in India. We also posed three questions:
- How to systematically and scientifically dispose the buffer stock?
- Should we work towards a concrete, time-bound disposal plan?
- How do we involve private sector to actively participate in procurements?
These questions need a resolution to meet the true purpose of meeting food security needs of the country. Let us delve further into why there is an urgent need for a concrete, scientific and systematic disposal plan for buffer stocks.
It is well established that the government periodically procures buffer stock of essential commodities like wheat, paddy, maize, pulses and oilseeds at Minimum Support Price (MSP) under Price Stabilisation Scheme (PSS) of the Central Government. Select states also run similar schemes for commodities not covered under the Central Government’s scheme, e.g. Copra (dried coconut balls) by the State Government of Karnataka. Once procured, these are stored in designated warehouses. Despite the precautions taken by the warehouse managers, these stocks carry the risk of being destroyed by fire, rains, rodents, etc. due to a lack of scientific warehousing infrastructure. According to a recent Times of India report, in the last few months, buffer stock of groundnuts worth Rs. 62 crores were lost in fire in Gujarat alone. Similarly, there have been many reports in the past where rains destroyed buffer stocks of wheat in other parts of the country. It is because of instances like these that we need a systematic disposal plan in place.
A comprehensive disposal plan either on a weekly, fortnightly or monthly basis with set targets, can certainly help reduce losses due to damage of buffer stocks. Furthermore, it can free the already scarce warehousing space and release the government’s blocked capital that can be used for furthering the cause of an agriculturally self-sufficient nation.
More than anything else, to achieve more from limited resources, a discipline approach is essential in terms of timely disposal on recurrent basis.