Milled rice rots in granaries
Ludhiana February 22:
More than 3,600 rice millers in the state are waiting for a “formal” letter, to be sent by the Centre through the state government, for sending the milled rice to food storage depots (FSDs) of the Food Corporation of India (FCI).
Not only lakhs of metric tonnes (MT) of rice (2009-10) lying in mills is rotting in this “waiting” process, but owners of several flour mills in the state are purchasing the “poor quality” of rice to be sold in the market after mixing it with wheat flour. This “mixed flour” is harmful for human consumption.
According to rice shellers, they were just doing the job of milling the rice at the rate of Rs 18 per quintal. But the rice had to be lifted and later sent to FSDs by the governments. “Until we get a formal nod from the government, we cannot send rice to depots on our own. Due to rain, frost, excessive sunlight etc, the rice gets damaged and discoloured, as it is lying in the open. Even due to tip damage or spot damage, the technical staff of the FCI refuses to lift it from mills. And the damaged produce gets piled up,” said a rice miller.
Ravinderpal Singh, who has organic fish farms in Rala, Charak and Gharuan villages, said despite several requests, rice millers were not ready to sell the damaged rice to farmers. “This damaged rice can be a good feed to our fish. The normal feed of fish is available at Rs 14 per kg in the market, but this rotten rice could be made available at just Rs 2 per kg. But rice millers do not sell the left over to us, instead they sell it to flour mill owners at a higher price (Rs 4-6 per kg), who mix it with wheat flour and sell in the market,” he said. He added that “the nexus was not possible without the connivance of FCI officials and employees”.
Tarlochan Singh, a progressive farmer, said earlier in just Raanwan village near Khamano, paddy worth crores of rupees got damaged. “But it is a similar situation everywhere in the state. If the FCI fails to lift produce on time, it should give its godowns on lease to farmers. The production is more in Punjab. The state government fails to store it properly and the Centre does not lift the produce on time. This is the national loss and nobody owns responsibility for ”, he added.