NE faces foodgrain storage crisis

Shillong, Oct 23 : The Northeast is currently facing an acute shortage of storage capacities of foodgrains disbursed through the Food Corporation of India (FCI) although the Centre has planned to increase the storage capacities by constructing new godowns.

In Meghalaya and Mizoram, the FCI has seven godowns each with a total capacity of 27,450MT and 26,240MT respectively. In Tripura, there are eight godowns with a capacity of 35,650 MT. According to B. Tayeng, general manager (R) of the FCI regional office, Shillong, there are 22 FCI godowns in the region with a total capacity of about 89,340MT. But the shortage of storage capacities of foodgrain has often left hundreds of trucks stranded, Tayeng said in a statement issued here.

Tayeng also pointed out that the construction of new godowns has “not made any headway” because of the slow process of land acquisition in the three states — Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura.

Noting that the Northeastern states are “foodgrain deficit states”, Tayeng said, the foodgrain requirements of the states are mostly met with supplies from Punjab and Haryana.

Tripura, with a population of 36,73,917 has the highest monthly requirement of foodgrains in the region, which is about 30,000 MT while Meghalaya, with a population of 29,64,001, has a requirement of about 15,000MT. Mizoram requires 14,000MT per month with a population of 10,91,014.

Tayeng said while Tripura and Mizoram have their own godowns to store buffer stock, Meghalaya has to depend on government nominee godowns. While stating that the demand of wheat is “not very significant” as the people of the region are basically rice consumers, Tayeng said FCI had stopped distributing sugar since June 2013.

Moreover, he said the FCI had recently started moving foodgrain from Andhra Pradesh to Tripura via Bangladesh while it also plans to import rice from Myanmar via Zokhawar in Champhai district of Mizoram.

According to reports, the Centre is planning to import 5 lakh tonnes of rice from Myanmar to meet public distribution system (PDS) requirements of Tripura and Mizoram.

While the FCI godowns in Meghalaya are fed by road transport, the godowns in Tripura and Mizoram are fed by both road transport and meter gauge terminals located in these two states, Tayeng said. However, rail transportation from Lumding to Tripura and Mizoram had been closed down since October 1 in view of the conversion work of the existing meter gauge line to broad gauge line. The work from Lumding to Silchar is likely to be completed by March 2015 and to Tripura and Mizoram by March 2016.

Trucks ferrying foodgrain have been using National Highways 40 and 44, which connects Guwahati, Silchar, Tripura, and Mizoram via Meghalaya because of the ongoing construction work.