Mains Paper: 3 | Agriculture
Prelims level: Mouldy grain
Mains level: Explain the importance of storing food grains with a proper mechanism.
• In India, the height of the rainy season is a time that one prays will pass because of flooded roads, wet clothes, masses of insects and mould.
• No place is safe from the growth of fungi that spring up overnight.
• With the humidity in the air and the warmth of summer, all that fungi need is something to feed on.
• To prevent fungal attack.
• We need to store food items at home in airtight containers with well-fitting lids or in sealed plastic bags.
A comparison between and other countries
• In other parts of the world, grain is stored in silos.
• The stored grain is kept dry and aired so as to prevent fungal and insect attacks.
• Today, the U.S. has a permanent storage capacity nearly equivalent to its annual grain production.
• But in India, the government has considered only four silos to be sufficient for the nation’s needs.
• In Uttar Pradesh, is the most modern with a storage capacity of 500 tonnes.
Invitation to illness
• According to a WHO report eating mouldy grain causes a variety of illnesses.
• The paper says: Aflatoxicosis causes abdominal pain, vomiting, hepatitis and (sometimes) death after acute exposure to high concentrations in food.
• Chronic low dose exposure to aflatoxin can result in impaired growth in children.
• For these reasons, traditional wisdom ensured that mouldy food was discarded.
• Today, our grain, especially wheat and paddy, is stored outdoors under tarpaulins through the rainy season.
• After this, grain is converted to flour or flour-based products or de-husked, which we store in airtight containers and bins to prevent mould.
• However, this is shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted.
• The mycotoxins which we seek to prevent by keeping food dry are already present from the time the flour was stored in the form of grain.
What governments can do?
• The government is aware of the deadly consequences of grain with mycotoxins.
• Although there are regulations in place to prevent the purchase of mouldy grain from farmers.
• There do not seem to be any published studies on the extent of mould infection in grain stored using the CAP method.
• However, one does not need these studies.
• All one has to do is purchase flour from the market, make rotis, bread or biscuits and compare the taste with similar products from developed countries.
• The “nutty taste” of wheat is missing in what is available in the Indian market.
• If you get wheat from farmers and get it ground, you will find the “nutty taste”.
Questions for planners
• When there is an abundance of steel, cement and other building materials, money and the technological know-how?
• Why is the government not moving on a war footing to store food grains in the proper manner?
• How is it acceptable that our foodgrains, which the public pays to procure, are stored in the open under tarpaulins?
• How can we gloat about a growing economy when 30 million tonnes of foodgrain is stored outside under tarpaulins?
• Why is there no effort being made to ensure that grain being procured annually is stored properly?
• Are our planners unaware of what is going on even in their own kitchens?
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