This year, food grain production is expected to achieve 257 million tonnes, indicating a robust level of self-sufficiency, says K. V. Thomas, Union Minister of State for Food

Despite an under par monsoon, there is no need for panic on the essential food commodities front, said K. V. Thomas, Union Minister of State for Food, on Friday.

Mr. Thomas addressed reporters after launching the third edition of ‘FoodCon 2012 on Advanced Technologies for the Global Food Market’ hosted by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). In spite of a rainfall deficiency of 23 per cent this season, the food stock situation, especially for rice, wheat and sugar, was comfortable, he said.

Karnataka, parts of Maharashtra and Rajasthan had been identified as among the areas worst hit by the rainfall deficit. There is likely to be a shortage of vegetables, fruits and pulses and edible oils in a country which is already importing 50 per cent of edible oils from Indonesia and Malaysia and pulses from Burma.

“However, we are confident of managing the situation,” he said.

The Centre, which was keeping a close watch on the food stock position, has convened high-level review meetings to monitor the situation and outline measures to avoid a crisis, he said. “There is enough rice for the next one year and sufficient stocks of wheat for the next three years,” he said.

In reply to a question on whether the Centre would ban export of some foods in view of the deficient monsoon, Mr. Thomas advocated a stable, practical and consistent export and import policy in place of the current practice of exporting food and then importing to avoid shortage.

According to Mr. Thomas, thanks to the efforts of the farmers and supportive measures of the Government, food grain production is likely to surpass the record levels of 245 million tonnes achieved in 2010-11. This year, food grain production is expected to achieve 257 million tonnes, indicating a robust level of self-sufficiency. Sugar production output was also good even if there was a minor shortfall in achieving the target of 250 lakh tonnes.

Inadequate storage

The Minister said he was more concerned about the inadequate storage facilities for foodgrains and edible oils. As the largest procurer of food grains, the Centre required a storage space of 80 million tonnes while only capacity for 64 million tonnes was available now, he said.

The Centre had proposed that States build storage to hold at least three months of PDS stock. He noted that private entrepreneurs were also reluctant to set up storage chains. He urged the industry to work with the Government to evolve long-term solutions.

The Food Security Bill, Mr. Thomas said, is now under the consideration of the Standing Committee on Food, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution which had already conducted two sittings. “We’re awaiting the outcome of the deliberations by the Standing Committee and further action will be taken accordingly to take the Bill forward,” Mr. Thomas said.