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Accessible, Affordable High Tech Storage For Farmers Is The Need Of The Hour

We have been celebrating the harvest festival – Makar Sankranti or Baisakhi since time immemorial but the true sense of the harvest festival will be realized when the farmers begin to celebrate.

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Agriculture is the backbone of the Indian economy as it employs a working force of more than 60% of the population. It contributes only 18% to the GDP, and 19% to India’s exports despite being one of the major economic sectors.

However, the pandemic stamped the fact that the agriculture sector is here to thrive. It was one of the very few sectors that survived the tide during the challenging economic downturn. There are several lacunas to be addressed in the agricultural sector, and storage with respect to warehousing is one of the primary concerns. According to the data released by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), more than 40% of the food produced is wasted at the consumer and retail level. For context, the wheat wastage figure of 21 million metric tonnes in 2013 equals Australia’s total annual production!

As unscientific and obsolete storage stares at the face of the poor, India ranks 102 out of 117 countries in the Global Hunger Index under the ‘serious hunger’ category. We need to ask ourselves this pertinent question – for how long are we going to continue being in the godown era?

Revamping agricultural warehousing in a revolutionary manner is the need of the hour to have a positive domino effect. The exigency to increase the scientific storage capacity of agricultural products stems from the fact that India has an ever-growing population to cater to, along with the rise in production capacity since the green revolution. Even now, the antiquated Cover and Plinth storage system is used in several warehouses across the country. To counter these issues, the Union budget and Shantha Kumar’s committee have created a fertile arena to rope in private players into the agricultural warehousing segment, which was until now dominated by the government.  

Some of the strategic challenges faced by the agricultural warehousing segment are: Infrastructural incapacities, High cost of credit, Delay in land procurement, Fragmented market, and Lack of integrated solutions. These contentions can be resolved with structural and systematic solutions, which will promote efficiency along with increased affordability.
Warehousing solutions should now promote end-to-end services (Third Party Logistics) for efficient integration of the forward and backward linkages. Smart agritech solutions in warehousing should be promoted by adopting technological solutions such as AI, Machine Learning, IoT, and Automation. They promote efficiency while boosting the functional capacity.
Storage of perishable commodities in state-of-art, Grade-A facilities, is the road to success. Modern warehouses have gained traction through the adoption of silos. These scientific structures enable bulk storage along with modern mechanized solutions. Vertical silos, which are made of metal sheets, are equipped with ventilated structures that ultimately promote bulk storage for longer durations.

Also, burgeoning the cold storage infrastructure along with a dehumidification system, is essential to reduce food wastage, which is so precious. They should be integrated with green solutions through the usage of renewable energy sources. This will not only reduce dependability on power supply through the grid network but also promote financial sustainability for the enterprises. The benefits of temperature-controlled warehouses are immense as they reduce the post-harvest loss for the farmer.

Going forward, food grain management is incomplete without augmenting the development of scientific and structural warehousing facilities across the country. We need to create a multi-dimensional approach that will create ripple benefits for different stakeholders. Firstly, the farmers will be able to utilize the economies of scale through mechanized warehousing facilities as post-harvest losses decrease and distress selling gets eliminated. Secondly, the government can fulfil the aspiration for a healthy India since there is no wastage of food. They will also be able to increase the export of food grains as the storage and retention capacity increases. Lastly, the consumers will get access to hygienic and nutritional food, promoting the idea of a healthy India.

We have been celebrating the harvest festival – Makar Sankranti or Baisakhi since time immemorial but the true sense of the harvest festival will be realized when the farmers begin to celebrate.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Abhijit Verma

The author is Executive Director & CEO of Avigna Group

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