The Food Corporation of India (FCI) rejected a Scroll.in report that claimed India had let 65 lakh tonnes of grains go to waste during the four months of the lockdown period.
In a letter to the editor of the digital news portal on Wednesday, June 3, Sudeep Singh, the Executive Director (Quality Control), FCI, said that after speaking to one of the authors of the article, it was confirmed that misinformation was being spread due to misinterpretation of the term used in the data while preparing the report.
"It is surprising to note that patently wrong information has been published in your online news portal without making any effort to check the facts and thereby giving completely wrong information to the public at large that 65 lakh MT food grain has been wasted during last 4 months," read the letter.
It concluded Scroll's report as unfair and detrimental to the organisation's credibility.
The report titled "India let 65 lakh tonnes of grain go to waste in four months, even as the poor went hungry" stated that in just four months between January 1 and May 1, the stock of rice and wheat that was not "readily issuable" which included partially spoilt as well as damaged grain, increased from 7.2 lakh tonnes to 71.8 lakh tonnes. (data provided in Table 5)
The report claimed that the amount of food grains wasted was more than the grains distributed through PM Garib Kalyan Ann Yojana in April and May to tide over the food insecurity created amid coronavirus crisis.
It further said that instead of using the grain stocks to feed the destitute during the lockdown, the central government was deliberately letting "food rot in its godown."
Adding that since the government lacks proper storage facilities for storing a large amount of supplies, the grain stocks are being stored in less-then suitable condition for a longer period which is resulting in the stocks getting damaged.
Springing to action, FCI, slamming the aforementioned claims clarified the meaning of the term not "readily issuable" used in the report.
FCI explained that during rabi season in April and May, wheat procurement happens at a large scale.
The wheat stock that is procured is shifted to government storage houses over time. There is a time gap between procuring and storing stages as large scale logistical operations are involved.
Thus, at any given point of time, there will be a certain amount of procured wheat that has not yet been shifted to a storage house.
Additionally, there are stocks in transit as it takes time to transport them from surplus to consuming states within the country.
The organisation further added that due to the lockdown numerous welfare schemes were launched due to which the demand for grains increased substantially.
Consequently, there was a larger amount of stock in transit. During the ongoing wheat procurement season that started on April 15, almost 365 Lakh MT of wheat was already procured by government agencies.
As on May 156.35 Lakh MT of procured wheat stocks were yet to be shifted from procurement mandies to storage points.
The letter mentioned that FCI has done all-time record movement of stocks during April 2020 and the stocks which were transiting from surplus to consuming states as on May 1 was also higher than the normal average stocks in transit.
The quantity of food grain in transit as on May 1 was 14.01 Lakh MT. These stocks subsequently reached the respective states and were issued to state governments for distribution under various central government's scheme.
FCI consulted Dr Vikas Rawal, one of the co-authors of the report, who confirmed that data was taken and the conclusion was reached by interpreting the stocks yet to be shifted to storage centres and that in-transit as waste stock, unfit for human consumption, which was debunked by the nodal body.
"It is a matter of grave concern that neither the researchers neither your online news portal made any effort to understand the data/terminology or verify the facts before publishing a report which could tarnish the image of a public organisation like the FCI engaged in the front line of fight against Covid-19," stated the letter.