Wheat worth Rs 607 crore damaged in Punjab: CAG

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Chandigarh: Inadequate and improper wheat storage and stocking fresh one with the infested in Punjab resulted in the loss of wheat of Rs 607.57 crore in four years, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) have said.

This fact came to light in a CAG report that was tabled in the Congress-ruled state assembly last week.

Between 2014-15 and 2017-18, a total of 2.83 lakh tonnes of wheat pertaining to previous crop years was declared as damaged, said the CAG.

The Committee on Public Undertakings of the state legislature had recommended in March 2016 that proper wheat storage spaces and its fumigation be undertaken to prevent its damage.

The audit observed that these lapses are still persisting in state procurement agencies — Punjab Agro Foodgrains Corporation Ltd and Punjab State Warehousing Corporation.

They procure wheat on behalf of the Food Corporation of India (FCI).

The proportion of damaged wheat to the total quantity stocked in the Punjab Agro Foodgrains Corporation Ltd was as high as 76.85 percent at the end of 2016-17.

However, the performance of Punjab State Warehousing Corporation was better as damaged wheat as a proportion of the total quantity in stock was below five percent from 2014-15 to 2016-17.

Its better performance was due to the fact that major portion (up to 79 percent) of their wheat stock was kept in covered storage, availability of qualified staff and better quality control mechanism.

The reasons for damage of wheat were inadequate and improper storage conditions, employment of poor preservation techniques, slow up-gradation of infested wheat and storage of fresh wheat with the infested stock.

The CAG observed that both state procurement agencies do not have adequate covered storage for its wheat stocks.

The percentage of covered storage capacity to the total capacity ranged between 6.09 percent and 19.03 percent in Punjab Agro Foodgrains Corporation Ltd and 45.05 percent and 78.78 percent in Punjab State Warehousing Corporation from 2012-13 to 2017-18.

In the Tarn Taran district, the entire wheat stock was stored in the open despite having the availability of covered storage in 2016-17, thereby exposing the foodgrain to a high risk of damage.

Also, the delay in disposal of damaged wheat resulted in an expenditure of Rs 8.57 crore on rent and security of storage spaces where the damaged wheat was kept.

March 2 (IANS)

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