A study conducted at Punjab Agriculture University (PAU), Ludhiana, has estimated that Punjab, where 63 lakh hectares (155 lakh acres) are under wheat and paddy, incurs a post-harvest loss of over Rs 2,000 crore annually due to the two crops.
This loss occurs at the ‘farmer level’ between harvesting, transporting to mandis and storing by farmers at home for their own consumption or sale at a later stage.
There are three types of crop loss — pre-harvesting loss, which occur due to pest/disease attack or unfavourable weather conditions, post-harvesting loss, which can be divided into two parts — loss at the ‘farm level’ and at the storage level in the godowns/storage areas of the government.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had recently announced Rs 1 lakh crore Agriculture Infrastructure Fund (AIF) for creation of facilities to minimise post harvesting losses.
Experts said pre and post-harvesting losses at storage/handling at the government level are quite high, but losses at farm level could also not be ignored.
A study titled ‘Assessment of pre and post-harvest losses in wheat and paddy crops in Punjab’ conducted by the Agro-Economic Research Centre Department of Economics and Sociology, PAU, under the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Government of India, had stated that knowledge on crop loss at the farm level is very limited.
Professor D K Grover, first author of this study and former director, Agro Economic Research Centre, PAU, told The Indian Express, “Total post harvest losses in wheat crop at the farm level are worked out to be 1.84 kg per quintal and 35.81 kg per acre as revealed by sample households. Small, marginal and large farmers were selected for the study.”
“In case of paddy crop, quantity lost during harvesting was worked out to be 4.43 kg per quintal and 122.38 kg per acre, as revealed by sample respondents, which occurred at the time of harvesting, during transportation to mandis etc. Apart from that there is quantity lost in storage (for personal consumption by farmers or for selling at later stage at their place),” said another author of this study, Dr J M Singh, an economics professor at PAU, adding that at the time of harvesting, grains keep falling and kernels too start coming out of plant. “Farmers take loose grain to mandis in trolleys. Grain loss happens at that time too,” he added.
“When we calculate paddy and wheat losses per acre with the total acreage under these crops, then the total loss of grain would come out and it can be calculated with the MSP rate,” said Professor Grover, adding that it would be in huge quality and can feed several lakhs of people.
In Punjab, usually around 35 lakh hectares (86.45 lakh acres) area is dedicated under wheat crop during rabi season and 27-28 lakh hectares (67-69 lakh acres) under paddy during Kharif season. The state yields 6.2 tonnes of paddy per hectare and around 5.1 tonnes of wheat per hectare.
Punjab’s total wheat production is around 175 lakh metric tonnes (17.5 million tonnes) and paddy production is 168 lakh metric tonnes (16.8 million tonnes) — including both non-Basmati and Basmati varieties.
Hence, when per acre paddy loss, which is 122.38 kg per acre, is calculated with total acreage, which remains between 27-28 lakh hectares, the total grain loss will come to around 8.31 lakh metric tonnes — which is worth Rs 1,500 crore as the MSP of paddy is around Rs 1,868 per quintal. Similarly, wheat loss which is 35.81 kg per acre, would come to 3.09 lakh metric tonnes for one cropping season and the total cost of it would be around Rs 590 crore with the MSP rate of Rs 1,900 per quintal. The total grain loss of the two crops is around 11.40 lakh metric tonnes worth Rs 2,090 crore at farm level only.
Professor Grover said that though this study was conducted in 2012, there is hardly any change in losses because no new technology has been developed to control post-harvesting losses at the farmer level, and the situation is more and less the same.
A senior officer in The Food Corporation of India (FCI) said there are huge losses at the government level, with huge amounts of grain lying at several places on kutcha/unscientific plinths and in the open under tarpaulin.
”If loss of wheat and paddy at the farmer level is so high, one can imagine the quantum of loss from these two crops only when over a dozen types crops are being grown in the state,” said a senior agriculture officer, adding that pre-harvesting loss is much more. He added that a lot of research is focusing on increasing yield by developing good seeds, but there should be more focus on developing technology to reduce post-harvest losses.
“Our actual gain is not only good production but also to save each grain at each level — from harvesting to the consumer,” said Professor Grover, adding that post-harvesting losses occur at every level in terms of both quantity and quality.
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