Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee’s ‘think-aloud’ strategy to rein in prices comes in the wake of food inflation racing to a 10-year high at 19.95 per cent for the week ended December 5 owing to soaring prices of potatoes, other vegetables and pulses even as a Parliamentary panel pulled up the Finance Ministry for its failure in taking timely action to check the runaway increase in prices of edibles.

Expressing concern over galloping food inflation, the Central Government on Thursday promised appropriate measures, including import of essential commodities, aimed at improving supplies to contain the price spiral.

“Food prices are going up and this is an area of concern ... we have to take appropriate measures to see what best could be done by augmenting the supply through imports,” Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee told the media here.

Mr. Mukherjee’s ‘think-aloud’ strategy to rein in prices came in the wake of food inflation racing to a 10-year high at 19.95 per cent for the week ended December 5 owing to soaring prices of potatoes, other vegetables and pulses even as a Parliamentary panel pulled up the Finance Ministry for its failure in taking timely action to check the runaway increase in prices of edibles.

In its report on ‘Inflation and price rise’ tabled in the Lok Sabha earlier during the day, the Standing Committee on Finance also asked the government to amend the Essential Commodities Act to check hoarding and speculation. “The Ministry of Finance...has obviously failed to intervene timely and squarely address this burning issue [price rise] with due seriousness,” the committee headed by Murli Manohar Joshi said and asked the government to “overcome its inertia and come to grips with the reality of unabated rise in the prices of essential commodities”.

The committee asked the government to formulate a comprehensive food pricing management policy and create a separate index on essential food items — Food Price Index — to accurately reflect the prevailing price situation in essential commodities.

Essentially, even as the committee sought to take the government to task, the unprecedented spurt in food prices has come about following an acute short supply of essentials on account of lower farm output in the wake of an erratic monsoon this year.

To combat the situation and contain food prices, the government took a number of supply-side measures such as allowing zero duty import of wheat, pulses and crude edible oil and also permitting imports of various other commodities like sugar and rice. However, despite these steps, food inflation has surged to nearly 20 per cent.

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