GUWAHATI, Nov 18 � The government has started using the river route through Bangladesh to bring foodgrain from other States of the country to the North East region and efforts are now on to go for regular movement through that route to use as a supplement to the main rail and road networks.
Food Corporation of India (FCI) Executive Director (North East) Pinuel Basumatary today said that two tranches of rice of 5,000 MT from Andhra Pradesh to Tripura via Bangladesh have been brought in view of the mega block in the Lumding-Silchar section.
�We are trying to move more via Bangladesh. Tenders have been floated in Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal and contracts are in final stages. We also want to move supply to Karimganj in Assam but the problem in the dry season is that rivers do not have the required drift,� he said.
Asked if the Bangladesh route can be used permanently even after the mega block is completed, he said, �We are looking at the route as a supplement. This was a pilot project. Now that it has succeeded, there is an effort to go for regular movement.�
Basumatary said efforts are on to import rice from Myanmar for Mizoram and Manipur.
�Tenders have already been floated. But the first round did not succeed as rates quoted were high, but efforts are continuing to use Myanmar as a supplement,� he said, adding that the target is to import 10,000 MT of rice for both States every month for the next five months.
Regarding the mega block, Basumatary said that FCI started work on storing up its godowns much before the mega block commenced in October. He said currently National Highway 44 is the only route for transporting foodgrains to south Assam, Mizoram, Tripura and Manipur, the areas which have been affected due to disruption of train services on account of the mega block.
He said FCI will more than double its storage capacity in the North East within next few years. As per the government plan, there should be a buffer of at least three months in godowns, but in the North East, only Mizoram has that much storage capacity.
Basumatary said FCI�s storage capacity in North East currently is 4.97 lakh MT and another 5.19 lakh MT will be added over the next few years.
�So far, 9,910 MT capacity has been added and by March 2015 we are aiming for another 72,360 MT,� he said, adding that in cases of some State governments unable to provide land, the corporation has decided to go for PPP mode. As part of it, three projects have been approved in Assam (at Nagaon, Barpeta Road and Rangiya), and FCI is also looking at possibilities at Kokrajhar and Dibrugarh.
Regarding procurement from Assam, Basumatary said it was very negligible last year as market price was higher than the MSP offered by the government. Besides, marketable surplus is very less in Assam while it is nonexistent in the other North East States.
He said the procurement target this crop year, beginning from December, is 30,000 MT for FCI and 40,000 MT for the State government.