CHANDIGARH (Commodity Online) : Lack of storage facilities threatened to damage huge quantities of wheat in India's northern state of Punjab as another bumper crop is ready for harvest.

Over 7.2 million tones of wheat are lying in warehouses across the state, some of it for the last three years. Of this, nearly 6.5 million tones is lying in the open.

All available space in the state's warehouses was filled with wheat stocks, said Punjab Mandi Board. It blamed central government for not lifting the stocks of previous years.

'In many of the warehouses, the earlier stocks are rotting and are unfit for human consumption, but the centre is not listening. Wheat worth crores is rotting because the centre is neither lifting the earlier stocks nor is it allowing the export of the excess stocks,' it said.

Procurement of wheat in Punjab and neighboring Haryana officially begins April 1, though the bulk of the crop will hit the market just after 'Baisakhi' festival (April 13-14).

The officials put the loss of the rotting wheat at a staggering Rs.500-800 crore. 'No one is bothered. While people in some parts (of India) are going without food, we are facing a problem of plenty,' Board said.

In Sirhind town, where one of the bigger storage facilities for foodgrain exists, tones of wheat in gunny bags are rotting in the open. The only protection that the stocks have are plastic sheets which get blown away in high velocity winds.

Punjab and Haryana last year jointly procured over 18 million (180 lakh) tonnes of wheat. The two states created individual records with Punjab procuring 11 million (110 lakh) tonnes of wheat and Haryana nearly seven million (70 lakh) tonnes.

Punjab alone contributes about 50 per cent of the foodgrain, wheat and paddy, to the national kitty annually. Farmers in both the states are also agitated over government policies.