Bhubaneswar: Ahead of coming to power for the fourth successive time, the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) had promised in its 2014 election manifesto to construct cold storage facilities in all the blocks of the state. However, the promise is itself in cold store.
“To ensure better preservation of agricultural products, subsidy-based cold storage facilities will be established in all the blocks in a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) mode,” the BJD had promised in its manifesto. However, the reality is far from the golden promise.
In Odisha, there are 314 blocks. If the BJD government had fulfilled its pre-poll promise, the state would have had at least 314 cold storages by now. On the contrary, government data says that as of date the state has a total of only 126 cold storage houses in 30 districts.
Interestingly, 80 of these are defunct, while 46 others are located only in 16 districts – thanks to the apathy of the officials towards the poor farmers.
Forget about the blocks, eight districts don’t even have a single cold storage facility (either government or private). This raises questions about the intention of the government, which always claims that welfare of farmers is its priority.
There is no cold storage facility in the major agri producing districts, including Bargarh, Dhenkanal, Kalahandi, Kandhamal, Sonepur, Boudh, Kendrapara and Jagatsinghpur.
Out of the 46 operational cold storages, only five belong to the government, while the remaining are run by private players.
It is common knowledge that Atagarh is among the main vegetable producing areas of the state. Ironically, the only storage facility here is lying defunct since long. In Bargarh district, there are four storage units, but all of them are lying defunct.
As per information provided by the Agriculture & Farmers’ Empowerment Minister and Cooperation Minister, the total capacity of the operational cold storages in the state is 2,17,880 metric tonne (MT), while the capacity of the 80 defunct units is 1,44,645 MT.
As per a survey of the National Centre for Cold Chain Development (NCCCD) and NABARD Consultancy Service, Odisha needs a minimum of 3 lakh MT cold storage facilities.
The ruling Biju Janata Dal, which is in power since 2000, had also promised to create warehousing facilities in all panchayats. This promise too remains on pen and paper. The state government has failed to ensure storage facility for onion. The Food Supplies and Consumer Welfare department’s projection says that the state needs 1,05,868.38 tonnes of potato and 28,379.68 tonnes of onion per month to meet its domestic demand. But in reality, the state has been able to crate 2,784 structures to store only 69,600 MT of onion.
Besides, the party had also failed to fulfil its promise of introducing a comprehensive Warehousing Act to strengthen food storage facilities in the state, which is highly dependent on other states to meet its domestic demand. It is an irony that the age-old Orissa Warehousing Act 1956 is still in force in the state.