Recognising the failure of India’s food public distribution system, the Indian government is sending a delegation from the food and public distribution ministry to China on a six-day visit starting today to understand more efficient methods and technologies to store, transport and trade grain.
The four-member delegation, which includes a representative each from the Central Warehousing Corporation (CWC), Food Corporation of India (FCI) and the food and civil supplies ministry will be led by Minister of State for Agriculture K.V. Thomas. The delegation which has been invited by China’s grains department will travel throughout the country, meeting government officials and researchers in order to learn ways in which India can improve her food distribution, transportation and trading systems.
China is the only Asian country besides India that produces a large amount of grain and has a large population that it needs to feed. In this regard, China has a centrally designed, efficiently managed food distribution system, from which Indian can gain. Thomas’s visit also comes at a time when food prices in India have soared and the government needs to ensure a better distribution system in order to maintain national good sustainability.
Even as India houses the world’s most underweight and malnourished children every year, even as millions of quintals of rice and wheat rot in India’s state coffers due to the lax distribution system. In 2008, at the height of the food crises, a Right to Information petition filed to the Food Corporation of India (FCI), revealed that 1.83 lakh (183,000) tonnes of wheat, 3.95 lakh (395,000) tonnes of rice, 22,000 tonnes of paddy and 110 tonnes of maize were damaged between 1997 to 2007. The amount of food grain could have fed over 10 million people in a year.
More recently in Punjab, India’s wheat state, government papers revealed the state suffered heavy losses due to damage of wheat stored in the open. Between 2006-07 and 2008-09 the state lost 16,500 tonnes of wheat lying in the open and this loss was more last year.