The government on Wednesday expressed concern over inflation in food prices with production of staple items hit by drought and floods, and hoped that things would ease after the winter crops arrive early next year.

“Inflation in food articles is a matter of concern and the Government of India have taken several steps to arrest the increase in prices of these commodities,” Food and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar told the Economic Editors’ conference.

Asked if he saw food prices easing over the next three months, he said: “It’s difficult to say now. But the situation will change once the Rabi (winter) crops are harvested.”

According to the government’s own data, wholesale prices of food articles went up by about 13 per cent year-on-year for the week ended October 17. Pulses rose sharply by 23 per cent.

Drought conditions early this year and floods that followed are estimated to have hit food grain production, which could be over 21 million tonnes short during this Kharif season, the government said on Tuesday.

Rice output is estimated to fall by over 15 million tonnes and coarse cereals 5.5 million tonnes.

Mr. Pawar said that the government has set a target of surpassing last year’s Rabi food grain production by 8.5 million tonnes to partly offset losses due to decline in output of summer-sown crops following drought and floods.

“We have taken measures to augment production in Rabi to partially offset losses in Kharif.... Improved soil moisture due to late monsoon rains has improved the prospects of Rabi crop,” Mr. Pawar said.

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