Sugar prices in retail markets will start to ease shortly in step with wholesale rates that have dropped after recent government measures to curb prices, Food and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said on Monday.

“After measures, there were some changes in sugar prices. There is a drop in the wholesale prices of sugar... Whenever there is a drop in the wholesale price, it (the impact) takes about 10-15 days to reach the retail market,” Pawar told reporters on the sidelines of a function here.

Asked when retail prices will come down, he said, “We hope that process has started.”

He said sugar prices have come down to Rs. 3,700—3,800 a quintal from Rs. 4,200 per quintal in the wholesale market.

As per official data, retail price of sugar has gone up to Rs. 47 a kg in the National Capital from Rs. 22 a year-ago.

Last week, the Cabinet Committee on Prices (CCP) took a slew of measures to increase availability of sugar in the domestic market and contain prices. It allowed processing of imported raw sugar anywhere in the country, extended deadline of duty-free import of white sugar till December-end.

India, the world’s largest sugar consumer, has been importing sugar since April last year to meet the shortfall in production. Sugar output is estimated at 16 million tonnes in the current season, ending September 2010, against an annual demand of 23 million tonnes.

Pawar also said sugar mills and traders have been looking at importing sugar in a big way in the past week.

Commenting on the overall food price situation, the minister said, “Let’s wait for the impact of measures taken recently.”

He also spoke about the price situation of wheat and rice and hoped that states will lift the food grains in order to bring down the prices.

“We have given instructions to the Food Corporation of India (FCI) to sell wheat and rice in the open market from today. I believe that states will co-operate,” Pawar said.

Last week, the minister had said the Centre would sell 2-3 million tonnes of wheat and rice in the open market over the next two months.

Pawar also said the Centre is ready to take corrective steps if States point out to deficiencies in the measures being taken for controlling food prices. Also, it would place before the state governments some more steps to tackle the price issue.

The Prime Minister has convened a meeting of Chief Ministers on January 27 to discuss food inflation, he said.

The meeting will also take up issues like taxation and prosecution against hoarders, besides the Centre releasing a blueprint before the states.

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