The grain silo near Mongla port is set to become operational by the end of this month, enabling the food directorate to unload imported wheat without pilferage and store the cereal for distribution in the south and southwest region.
“The construction of the silo is done and is ready for use. Now commissioning is on,” Bimal Bhuiyan, deputy project director of the concrete grain silo project at Mongla port, said yesterday.
The silo, constructed at Tk 578 crore on the bank of Pashur river at Joymonirghol, has the capacity to store 50,000 tonnes of wheat.
Bhuyian said the silo would be fully operational after its inauguration later this month by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina through a video conference.
Grains storing may begin by unloading 21,000 tonnes of imported wheat from a ship that is likely to arrive at Mongla by the third week of this month, he said.
This is the country's fifth silo, which has been constructed decades after building of the first four silos.
The four silos were built between the years of 1967 and 1970 with World Bank financing, said food officials.
Officials said the government based on grant from Japan Debt Cancellation Fund had earlier planned to build a food grain silo at Mongla port to arrest pilferages from imported cargoes.
At present, food grains are unloaded manually from the port and 90 percent of imports are unloaded from the lighter vessels without even getting weighed.
As a result, nearly 10 percent of the imported cargoes at the port are lost every year, with the missing volume reaching 1.21 lakh tonnes last decade, said project officials earlier.
The new food storage will have modern handling and weighing equipment, according to officials.
“We will be able to unload grains faster,” he said, citing that cereals would be unloaded automatically from vessels.
“This will save time that was needed for manual handling. It will also reduce system loss,” Bhuiyan said.
Apart from that, the silo will act as a buffer and help the government address food shortage in the southwest and the north in the event of natural disasters like cyclone.
“Grains can be stored here for up to three years,” he said, adding that river routes would mainly be used to transport cereals from the silo to the districts in the region.
Some 70 percent of the grains will be transported through the river route for distribution in Khulna and Barisal divisions, according to Bhuiyan.
The government also plans to construct a 17.5 kilometre-long road and a bridge on the Mongla river to connect the port town with Joymonirghol to ensure smooth transportation of wheat from the silo.
Once fully operational, activities at the silo are likely to create job opportunities in the seaport town and its adjacent rural areas. However, there are environmental concerns.
The area adjacent to the silo holds the Sundarbans and increased economic activities are likely to affect the mangrove forest, said Noor Alam, local coordinator of Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon.
The silo at Mongla is one of the schemes taken by the government earlier to increase storage capacity to 30 lakh tonnes as part of its goal to stock more food so that it can cushion poor people from hunger and keep prices of staple food stable in the market.
At the beginning of 2016, the storage capacity at the government level was increased to 20.40 lakh tonnes.