[Editorial Analysis] Steps to stop the rot: on dangers of storing foodgrains in the open

Mains Paper: 3 | Agriculture

Prelims level: Mouldy grain

Mains level: Explain the importance of storing food grains with a proper mechanism.

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Context

• 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?

Link – https://tt93a.app.goo.gl/HM3P2v4p3eNd9ho97

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