The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved the constitution of an inter-ministerial committee for the facilitation of the world's largest grain storage scheme in the cooperative sector.

The government will allocate around ₹1 lakh crore to this scheme, says Union minister Anurag Thakur, adding that a godown of a capacity of 2,000 tonnes will be constructed in every block under the scheme.

The plan aims to converge various schemes of the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution and Ministry of Food Processing Industries.

In order to ensure time-bound and uniform implementation of the plan, the Ministry of Cooperation will implement a pilot project in at least 10 selected districts of different states and union territories (UTs) in the country.

The pilot is expected to provide valuable insights into the various regional requirements of the project, the learnings from which will be suitably incorporated for the country-wide implementation of the plan.

The scheme would be implemented by utilising the available outlays provided under the identified schemes of the respective ministries.

According to the government, the plan is multi-pronged – it aims to address not just the shortage of agricultural storage infrastructure in the country by facilitating establishment of godowns at the level of Primary Agricultural Credit Societies (PACS), but would also enable PACS to undertake various other activities such as: functioning as Procurement centres for State Agencies and Food Corporation of India (FCI); serving as Fair Price Shops (FPS); setting up custom hiring centers; setting up common processing units, including assaying, sorting, grading units for agricultural produce, etc.

The creation of decentralised storage capacity at the local level would reduce food grain wastage and strengthen food security of the country, the government says.

The plan entails setting up various types of agri-infrastructure, including warehouses, custom hiring centers, processing units, etc. at the level of PACS, thus transforming them into multipurpose societies. Creation and modernisation of infrastructure at the level of PACS will reduce food grain wastage by creating sufficient storage capacity, strengthen food security of the country and enable farmers to realise better prices for their crops, says the government.

By providing various options to the farmers, the scheme is expected to prevent distress sale of crops, thus enabling the farmers to realise better prices for their produce, the Centre says, adding this would reduce the cost incurred in transportation of food grains to procurement centres and again transporting the stocks back from warehouses to FPS.

On the time frame, the Centre says a national level coordination committee will be formed within one week of the Cabinet approval. A portal for the linkage of PACS with the Centre and State Governments will be rolled out within 45 days of the Cabinet approval and the implementation of the proposal will start within 45 days of the Cabinet approval, according to the government.

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