The Telegraph
Thursday , January 23 , 2014
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Centre mulls sea route for foodgrain
- Bid to skirt inhospitable terrain

Imphal, Jan. 22: The Centre is actively considering sending foodgrain to northeastern states from southern states through the sea route to ease the problem of surface transportation, K.V. Thomas, Union minister of state for consumer affairs, food and public distribution, said here today.

“Transportation of foodgrain from southern states like Andhra Pradesh to the Northeast on sea route via Bangladesh is under active consideration. A decision will be taken soon,” Thomas said while opening an FCI regional office at Imphal.

The Union minister said the Centre had opted for sea routes to make transportation of foodgrain from one place of the country to another because it is convenient and also considering the difficulties in ferrying goods to the unfriendly terrain of the Northeast.

The minister urged the states in the region, particularly Manipur, to enhance its foodgrain production, including wheat, by taking necessary help from the Union agriculture ministry in view of the problems in transporting foodgrains.

“The FCI is ready to provide whatever required. However, it will be easier for the states if their own production capacity increases, thereby enabling the implementation of the National Food Security Act,” Thomas said.

Frequent landslides, strikes, blockades and prevailing law and order situation had often disrupted the supply of essential commodities and transportation of FCI items to state capitals in the region.

The annual rice requirement for Manipur’s 28.55 lakh population is 5.5 lakh tonnes against the state’s own production of 3.7 lakh tonnes.

He also urged the Manipur government to expedite construction of infrastructure like godowns for foodgrain in all the nine districts.

Among the districts, only Senapati and Ukhrul have godowns ready for storage while those in Thoubal and Churachandpur are under construction. The land acquisition process is under way for the remaining districts.

The existing godowns have storage capacity of 32,000 tonnes, which is two months’ stock. For implementation of the food act, the state needs to double the capacity to store four months’ supply.

Thomas said the opening of the Imphal regional centre would felicitate implementation of the food act.

The regional office was opened at the Old Assembly complex in the heart of Imphal city. This is the 25th regional office of the FCI in the country. The corporation completes 50 years this year.

Manipur chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh said his government would try to implement the food act this year. He, however, expressed doubts about meeting the target given the lack of infrastructure in the state.

Ibobi Singh urged the Union minister to accelerate the process of paying compensation for land acquired for construction of godowns.

Earlier, state consumer affairs, food and public distribution minister M. Okendro Singh urged the Union minister to increase the storage capacity in Manipur.