Agriculture Warehousing in India – Data, Statistics and Opportunities

agriculture-fci-warehouse

Credit Analysis & Research Ltd. (CARE Ratings) recently released a report analyzing the problems and opportunities existing in Agri-Warehousing in India. The full report follows below:

Agriculture Warehousing in India – Data, Statistics and Opportunities

AGRI WAREHOUSING IN INDIA

Though in the right direction: much more needs to be done

Background

Indian economy is an agrarian economy with over 70% of the population engaged in activities related to agriculture. Indian food grain production has grown at an average rate of 1.20% over a period from 1994-95 with the production of 192 million metric tonnes (MMT) to an all-time record output of 232 MMT in 2010-11 (15 years) and with the expectation of good monsoon in FY12 the uptrend is likely to continue. A major part of the food grain production consists of rice at about 94 MMT (41%) and wheat at about 82 MMT (35%). Further, the production of Rabi and Kharif crops is now almost equal on account of growth in Rabi crop due to the increased production of wheat, rice, cereals, and pulses. All these taken together have drastically increased the need for storage capacity in India.

FOOD-GRAIN STORAGE CAPACITY IN INDIA

India has a total Agri warehousing capacity of around 91 MMT at present to store and conserve such large quantities with state agencies owning 41% of the capacity and the balance distributed among private entrepreneurs, cooperative societies, farmers, etc.

However, these government agencies use 66% (60 MMT) of India’s total agri storage capacity which also includes hired capacity of 23 MMT. The total state-owned storage capacity of 37 MMT is held through three public sector agencies viz. Food Corporation of India (FCI), Central Warehousing Corporation (CWC) and State Warehousing Corporation (SWC).

With the average buffer stock norms for food grains of around 25 MMT and a peak of 32 MMT in July every year, the storage capacity available with Government agencies is primarily used for keeping central stock of food grains for the buffer stock, public distribution systems and other Government schemes.

The graph below presents, the stock levels maintained by the state agencies and the buffer stock norms for the past 10 year period.

grain-stock-India

Due to insufficiency of the covered storage capacity of food grains, which was around 47.55 MMT as on March 31, 2000, and due to progressively increasing government stocks, a considerable amount of food grains had to be stored under open Cover and Plinth (CAP) storage and to an extent in hired capacities, mainly during the year 2000 to 2003. But with the falling procurement levels between 2002-03 and 2006-07, the additional capacities hired by FCI during higher procurement levels in 2000-01 and 2001-02 had to be released due to idle capacities.

The years from 2007-08 to 2009-10, saw the highest-ever levels of procurement of food grains by Government agencies, resulting in a severe strain on the available storage capacities. Higher minimum support price (MSP), better reach, and consequent higher procurement helped ensure better and remunerative prices to farmers. However, it caused a strain on available storage capacities with the State agencies involved in procurement.

Before 2000, private sector interest in the warehousing industry was low due to its capital intensive nature and high uncertainty over revenue generation.

THE CHART BELOW INDICATES THE TOTAL STORAGE CAPACITY IN THE COUNTRY AND THE OWNERSHIP DISTRIBUTION AS ON TWO DIFFERENT DATES WITH A PERIOD OF 10 YEARS:

warehouse-ownership-india

As evident from the chart above, private sector interest in the warehousing industry picked up after the “Rural Godown Scheme” was introduced in the year 2001-02 under National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) and National Cooperative Development Corporation (NCDC).

The warehousing capacity built over the past 10 years, especially those sanctioned by NABARD have an average storage capacity per warehouse of 1,261 metric tonnes (MT) and around 75% of numbers of godowns have a capacity of less than 1,000 MT. The development of small and medium godowns indicates that most of them have been built by farmers or a community of farmers thus ensuring that distress sale is reduced and better prices are paid to farmers for their produce.

Apart from this, there are few large national level players that have emerged over the last decade owing to the available capital subsidy. These include National Bulk Handling Corporation Ltd., National Collateral Management Services Ltd., Adani Agri Logistics, Star Agriwarehousing & Collateral Management Ltd., Shree Shubham Logistics Ltd., Ruchi Infrastructure Ltd., Guru Warehousing Corporation, Paras Warehousing, and LTC Commercial.

Regional Imbalance

The storage capacity in India is mainly concentrated towards production centers as indicated by the graph below:

regional-distribution-warehouse

Only 22% of the total storage capacity is available in the major consumption states. Even some of the states have got storage capacities of less than one month of their requirement. While obvious factors like proximity to the major mandis in the state, differences in the quantities of food grain and pulses produced within the state, etc. are the major causes behind the regional imbalances, other key factors like the extent of interest and initiative shown by bank officials in promoting the concept of rural godowns to local entrepreneurs, publicity and awareness created about the scheme at the local level, etc. also played a major role behind these regional imbalances. In short, dominant producers of food grain and related agricultural products comprise the majority of godowns and storage capacity.

Regulator for warehousing

With a view to increasing the participation of the private sector and development & regulation of the warehousing industry, the Government of India introduced ‘The Warehousing (Development and Regulation) Act’ in September 2007. The main focus of this Act is to establish a regulated environment for issuance of Negotiable Warehouse Receipt (NWR) under Warehousing Development and Regulatory Authority (WDRA) which was constituted in October 2010 under the said Act. The functions of WDRA include registration and accreditation of warehouses intending to issue NWR. WDRA, since inception had granted accreditation to 51 applications out of 300 applications submitted as on March 31, 2011.

Bottlenecks

Even with significant development of storage capacity sanctioned under NABARD and NCDC schemes, it is estimated that around 20-30% of the total food grain harvest is wasted due to inadequate storage capacity, regional imbalance in warehouses, lack of adequate scientific storage and inefficient logistic management in the country. It is said that each grain bag is handled at least six times before it is finally opened for the processing which leads to higher storage & transportation charges and also increases to wastage of food grain during transit & handling.

Further, the storage capacity available with State agencies are primarily used for keeping central stock of food grains for the buffer stock, public distribution systems, and other Government schemes which consequently leaves only a marginal capacity for other players to store their produce.

Foodgrain (mainly wheat & rice) is the main commodity stored, while the other major crops storable in the godowns include oilseed, spices, and cotton. Though the government has started focusing on building storage capacity through various schemes, the focus is still largely on the storage of wheat and rice which are considered as a staple food in the country. Also due to the existing regional imbalance, the government’s capacity to procure produce is limited outside

Northwest India, which has recently led to a fall in wheat prices and compelled the farmers to sell their produce below its MSP.
With all these issues, much needs to be done to built additional storage capacity, renovate existing warehouses and implement a robust system of NWR to make available more funds to farm producers and simultaneously provide security to the lenders.

Way ahead

1. The capacity of warehouses to be built

Though the storage capacity has increased at a CAGR of 6.7% during the last decade till March 2010, the irony remains that around 20-30% of the total food grain harvest is wasted due to lack of availability of storage capacity, regional imbalance in warehouses, lack of adequate scientific storage and inefficient logistic management in the country. Albeit, with adequate storage capacity in place, a normal handling loss of around 5-7% is expected to continue.

Two things need to be addressed at this stage, 1) to build additional storage capacity and 2) upgrade the existing state-owned warehouses. Most of the warehouses owned by state agencies are over 15-20 years old and hence the same needs up-gradation to contain wastage levels. With a present state-owned capacity of 37 MMT and a renovation cost of around Rs.1,000 per metric tonne, the total required capex is expected to be around Rs.37-40 bn.

In order to balance food grain production to consumption (for both Kharif and Rabi crops), a total peak storage capacity required works out to be around 70% of annual production. With annual food grain production of 232 MMT, the required storage capacity is around 162 MMT which indicates a deficit storage capacity of 70 MMT at present levels. The same could be verified by taking the base of wastage level. So with the wastage level of around 30% (with a production level of 232 MMT), the deficit storage capacity works out to be around 70 MMT.

As per the recently sanctioned projects under NABARD for some private players rated by CARE, the construction cost for the modern warehouses was in the range of Rs.4,000-6,000 per metric tonne of capacity created and hence the total construction cost for the building of 70 MMT storage capacity would be around Rs.350. Assuming that all the godowns are supported by capital subsidy the total capital subsidy outlay would be around Rs.84 bn. Further, considering wastage of around 70 MMT, the foodgrain loss is also to the tune of Rs.70-100 bn.

This indicates that the capital subsidy burden for new warehouses and for renovating the existing state-owned warehouses would largely be compensated by the savings in food grain in two-three years. Hence, it makes sense to extend the Rural Godown Scheme beyond 2012 with more focus on building capacity in consumption centres as only 22% of the total storage capacity is available in the consumption states.

2. Need to focus on other commodities also

The major storage capacity of government agencies are occupied by wheat and rice which leads to an acute shortage for storage capacity for other food grains and Agri commodities. With the production of 40 MMT of coarse cereals (bajri, jowar, corn, etc.), 16.51 MMT of pulses, 27.85 MMT of oilseeds, 336.7 MMT of sugarcane and 33.93 million bales (1 bale = 170 kg) of cotton more focus should also be given for efficient warehousing of such commodities to minimize wastage.

Over the years warehousing business has been transformed to a great extent from merely a storage infrastructure to a one-stop-shop for supply chain management through the entry of the private sector. Nowadays the goods are stored as per the scientific methodology to protect them against the quantitative as well as qualitative losses occurring due to unavoidable circumstances such as floods, pest attacks, etc. Hence, ‘warehouse performance indicators’ should be introduced to check the efficiency of the warehouses which should include quality parameters like the ability to control wastage, pest control measures, provide wide range of testing, grading and certification services which can help in ascertaining the value of the commodity deposited and bring transparency among all interested entities.

3. More warehouses to issue NWR

Generally, at the time of harvesting, the price of agricultural commodities tends to be lower because of a positive supply situation and farmers often do not get adequate prices for their produce. By depositing their produce in a registered warehouse and obtaining NWR, farmers can use it as collateral for obtaining short-term borrowing for their working capital requirement for the current sowing season from banks. Further, when the prices become favorable, the farmer can sell the same, repay the loan and get a surplus income.

The introduction of the NWR system in the country would not only help farmers to avail better credit facilities and avoid distress sale but would also safeguard financial institutions by mitigating risks inherent in credit extension to farmers. The pledging /collateralization of agricultural produce with a legal backing in the form of NWR would lead to increase the inflow of credit to the rural areas, reduce the cost of credit (due to certainty of recovering credit by the bank) and would spur other related activities, like standardization, grading, packaging, and insurance services in the agricultural sector. With the increased requirement of quality storage, warehousing industry would also get a boost in rural areas. This would also fill gaps in the logistic chain of agri-business in the rural sector.

Apart from individual farmers, cooperative societies and Self-Help Groups (SHGs) would also be able to assist their members particularly small and marginal farmers by aggregating their surplus produce and keeping the same in registered warehouses. An established NWR system would also act as an incentive for farmers to produce goods of quality and specification amenable to standardization and storage in registered warehouses.

Apart from all the infrastructure and subsidy support the farmer community needs to be educated to form cooperatives and organize into larger bodies that would construct storage capacity and various production pockets. Further, such a cooperative can negotiate with organized retail for selling their produce in bulk reducing the storage capacity and lesser movement of goods. In the future, it may take shape in the form of contract farming for organized retail, which is presently being done mainly for fresh vegetables.

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