By Our Staff Reporter
Guwahati, June 8: Even though Assam has long been facing the serious challenge of food safety, storage and distribution, the State government continues to be slipshod when it comes to strengthening the cold storage chain.
There are 34 cold storage units in the State, of which 24 are private and ten government. Five of the ten government cold storage units are non-functiol.
The non-functiol units are those at Khapara (500 MT), Byrnihat (500 MT), Patgaon in Kokrajhar (2,000 MT), Rowta (2,000 MT) and the incomplete one at Chenijan in Jorhat.
Industry sources claim that a "lot of fruits and vegetables" perish before reaching markets from producing areas due to lack of storage facilities.
It is reported that about Rs 43,557 crore worth of food goes to waste every year in India because of idequate storage facilities.
Most of the waste is occurring between the farm and the marketplace with up to 40% lost between the farm and the consumer due to lack of cold storage, refrigerated transport and poor roads. Cold storage facilities, or refrigerated warehouses, are particularly lacking.
Officials at the Assam Agriculture department admit that in the last season, a good chunk of vegetables produced at Kharupetia and Barpeta Road had to be thrown away.
While the government has not initiated steps to make functiol the defunct cold storage units, it neither has any plans to set up new units.
It is said that cold storages are no longer fincially feasible and so the private sector is not venturing into it.
With regard to its establishment cost, a cold storage unit with a capacity of around 4,000 metric tonnes can be set up at a cost of around Rs 2 crore.
The Government of India provides 40 per cent capital subsidy for setting up cold storages, which is the highest rate of subsidy given under any of the government schemes.