Grain storages for food security
By Saleem Shaikh
the absence of planning for maximisation of crops and low
spending of allocated funds for construction of modern
storage facilities, Sindh faces a threat of becoming a food
The present population of around 40 million of the province
is likely to double by 2030. This rapid increase in
population during the next 20 years would need doubling the
present production of all crops, particularly wheat, rice
and sugarcane to meet the mounting food needs.
Only about 10 per cent of this enormous requirement will
come from increase in acreage, while the rest 90 per cent
will have to be met by augmenting crop production. This will
need an enormous investment for maximisation of per acre
yield through provision of good quality seeds, promotion of
better land management and improved farm practices and, most
importantly, a modern storage infrastructure to protect and
save the produce.
A review of different official budgetary and planning
documents points to a grim situation and the likelihood of
emergence of food insecurity in the province, as the
government lacks planning to ensure food availability to
people in the coming years.
Given the situation, encouraging farmers to grow more crops
will not protect the province against food insecurity. In
this regard, investment in building modern storage
facilities/silos is equally important.
Agriculturists put post-harvest losses of different crops at
40-45 per cent including those caused by inadequate storage
facilities. Tons of grains including wheat and rice are
spoiled every year owing to rains and erratic weather
conditions as well as sizzling heat wave, which can be
avoided by keeping grains protected in silos.
Rain damage: This time again the recent rains in different
districts of Sindh have damaged a large quantity of procured
wheat as it was lying in the open at different procurement
centres and privately-rented godowns, many without roof.
The current province-wide post-rain losses are estimated at
around Rs390 million as when it rained in Sindh, more or
less six million wheat bags were lying in the open due to
inadequate storage facilities, according to food department
The provincial food department achieved the target of 1.5
million tons of wheat (15 million wheat bags) during the
current wheat procurement drive. But, only seven million
bags could be stored in government and privately-rented
godowns while the rest of the stock was left lying in the
open at different procurement centres, according to reports
from different district food officials. “As many as two
million of the seven million wheat bags have been kept in
private godowns,” they said.
Although, food department director Aftab Memon puts the
figure of damaged wheat bags at 1,80,000, the actual figure
is far more in view of the overall number of wheat bags that
were lying in the open when it rained heavily.
Badin, Thatta, Hyderabad, Tando Allahyar, Tando Adam,
Sanghar, Khairpur, Sukkur Dadu, Larkana, Qambar-Shahdadkot
and Shikarpur received heavy rains, where a large number of
wheat bags were lying exposed in the open.
Heavy monsoon rains are expected in July and August in
southern part of the country. The tons of recently procured
wheat might get lost if measures were not taken for its safe
Despite the prediction, unfortunately there seems to be no
action plan in the offing by the provincial food department
for the safety of the procured wheat that is lying in the
open in many parts of the province.
When this scribe talked to the food department officials
whether they had any plan for the protection of wheat bags,
they said that they were yet to come up with a contingency
plan in this regard.
Risk in polymer bags: On the other hand, another large
quantity of wheat stored in privately-rented godowns in
different wheat growing districts, has started decomposing
and becoming prone to insects and moths attacks as thousands
of polymer bags packed with wheat are getting damaged,
according to reports collected by this scribe.
Provincial food department’s inaction for safekeeping of
wheat stocks still lying in open at different procurement
centres is bound to cause huge losses to the provincial
Provincial food secretary Naveed K. Baloch claimed that
all-out efforts were being made to avoid further damage to
the remaining wheat stock. He admitted that polymer bags
were not suitable for grain storage and were prone to damage
within a month. “Yet, the government was compelled to pack
wheat in polymer bags this time, because of serious
shortfall of gunny bags,” said Mr Baloch.
A food official said that the food department was provided
with less than 50 per cent of its requirement of gunny bags
for procurement of wheat. The remaining 50 per cent of the
1.5 million tons of wheat was packed in polymer bags.
The provincial government may incur heavy losses, if the
authorities concerned do not act immediately to protect the
hitherto safe grain lying in the open, it is feared.
Lack of investment and poor utilisation of allocated funds
for proper rehabilitation of the existing storage facilities
and building of modern silos, will continue to cause
financial losses to the government.
The government pays around Rs40-45 million annually as rent
of godowns to private parties for storage of wheat.
Availability of improved and modern silos to store and
protect grain always pays off while their absence adds to
shortage and increase in cost of grain. Research findings
have concluded that better storage facilities help maintain
food prices and prevent loss of grain and consequently
hunger and famine. Poor storage system is often to be blamed
for food insecurity.
There is an urgent need to plan for building modern silos to
help reduce province’s post-harvest losses and it is only
possible through hefty allocations for the construction of
modern storage facilities.
Courtesy: The DAWN