Inability to operate Cold Storage in Bengal

West Bengal Cold Storage AssociationKolkata, 6th February 2024: West Bengal Cold Storage Association is the only active Association of Cold Storage in West Bengal. Today at Press Club, Kolkata a Press Meet was organized to draw the attention of the farmers, consumers & common public to the damage caused due to rent for the preservation of potatoes. The Press Meet was attended by: Sri. Sunil Kumar Rana, President of West Bengal Cold Storage Association; Sri. Subhajit Saha, Vice President of WBCSA; Sri. Rajesh Kumar Bansal, Ex-President of West Bengal Cold Storage Association; Sri. Patit Paban De, Sri. Tarun Kanti Ghosh, Sri. Gobind Kajaria, Past Presidents of WBCSA; Sri. Dilip Chatterjee, Sri. Kaushik Kundu, Chairman of District Committees of WBCSA & many others.

Cold storage is run with the income derived as cold storage rent for the preservation of agricultural produce where the rent is determined by the Government. As per practice cold storage rent is advised by the Government based on the recommendation of the Government Expert Committee which makes such recommendation after considering the rate of increment for the various input costs e.g. cost of electricity, ammonia, office maintenance, repair & maintenance of machinery/equipment, staff salary charges for all types of labor engaged for loading & unloading of potato. It is observed that rent approved by Government is always less than the amount recommended by the Expert committee and thus till 2021 the cold storages are deprived of an accumulated amount of Rs 21.35/quintal. Over the years the gap between the recommended amount and the approved rent has grown disproportionately which currently has become unviable for cold storage. Eventually, the cold storages are forced to be a sick industry and finally disposed of as NPA by banks. Modernization of the store units is also not possible due to paucity of surplus funds, hence, we are unable to provide up-to-date service to the hirers. The Government has not revised cold storage rent after 2021 though the Association has appealed for the revision with sufficient justifications and the Expert committee also recommended on January 23 for revision of storage rent to Rs 190/quintal & Rs 194/quintal for south Bengal & north Bengal respectively. Thus there has been an under-recovery of Rs 9.95/quintal for the period 2021 to 2022 itself. The input costs for the industry have increased again in 2023 though an appeal for recovery of the same was not made by us due to various reasons.

On this occasion, Sri. Sunil Kumar Rana, President of West Bengal Cold Storage Association highlighted, “It is regretted that despite knowing that cold storage rent in other states is in the range of Rs 230 to Rs 270 per quintal, we are compelled by Govt. order to operate our units for Rs 168 to Rs 172 per quintal. This way we have accepted a monetary loss of Rs 31.30/quintal and operated for the last two years and despite our earnest wish we could not modernize the units. As a result, the farmers and hirer consumers are deprived of modern techniques of preservation. In this pressing situation many of its members are falling into a debt trap resulting in the closure of cold storage in different districts or the units are becoming NPA for the banks. There will be a huge impact on the rural economy shortly unless the monetary loss for the cold storage industry is checked in time. Therefore, we like to take this opportunity to inform all concerned that we are not sure about the operation of cold storage with the present rent structure in the ensuing season and in such event, our inability to operate may be pardoned.”