An Empowered Group of Ministers on Food is scheduled to meet on Monday to discuss various proposals, including the sale of an additional 30 lakh tonnes of rice and wheat through ration shops and imposition of import duty on refined sugar.
Besides this, the EGoM, headed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, is likely to consider the draft Food Security Bill, increase in the issue price of food grains for Above Poverty Line families and sugar sold through ration shops, sources said.
In the last EGoM, imposition of import duty was deferred due to high inflation. The Food Ministry is understood to have proposed 15 per cent duty on white sugar.
The Ministry has also proposed to increase the issue price of sugar to reduce the subsidy burden.
Recently, the government raised the levy rice, which the government pays to mills to buy sugar, by Rs. 4 at Rs. 17.57 per kg. But the issue price (the rate at which government sells sugar to ration cardholders) stands at Rs. 13.5 per kg.
The EGoM is also likely to consider a proposal to raise the central issue price (CIP) of rice and wheat sold to APL families via PDS. At present, APL families get wheat at Rs. 6.10/kg and rice at Rs. 8.30/kg.
In the proposed food law, the EGoM would discuss issues relating to fixing the number of beneficiaries to be covered under the Act and increasing the quantity provided every month to BPL families from 25 kg to 35 kg a month.
The EGoM, which cleared the draft Food Security Bill in March, had to reconsider it after UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi wanted improvements with regard to monthly food supply and the number of beneficiaries.
In April, the EGoM had asked the Planning Commission to provide a firm estimate on the number of people living below poverty line.
Meanwhile, the Planning Commission has accepted the Tendulkar Committee report on poverty estimation, based on which the number of BPL families would increase to over 8 crore from the current 6.52 crore.
The EGoM will hold discussions on better management of overflowing granaries. It is also likely to discuss a proposal to sell an additional 30 lakh tonnes of rice and wheat via PDS to clear godowns as well as contain inflation.
Last week, Food and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar had said, “I am going to EGoM to discuss offering 25-30 lakh tonnes of rice and wheat to the State governments for supply under PDS. This will be over and above the existing allocation.”
At present, the government godowns are overflowing with foodgrains amounting to 60 million tonnes, against the capacity of 41 million tonnes.