Food prices are expected to decline in the next fiscal on the back of higher farm output and the only worry then for the government would be on storage, Food and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar has said.
He, however, said that the country would remain import dependent when it came to pulses and edible oils for the next 10 years.
On the possibility of prices coming down in the next financial year beginning April 1, Mr. Pawar told in an interview to CNN-IBN news channel: “100 per cent. In 2011-12 the problem which the government of India will have to worry about (is) what to do and where to store.”
Food inflation touched 17.40 per cent for the week ended January 16 on account of high prices of vegetables and pulses.
On controlling prices of pulses, the minister said: “Pulses we have to import, edible oil we have to import even for another 10 years or so. Because day by day, demand is growing, purchasing power of the weaker section is also improving.”
India imported a record 8.1 million tonnes of edible oils in 2008-09 season (November-October). The country imports 3-4 million tonnes of pulses every year to meet domestic demand.
The prices of essential food items have risen sharply in last one year, particularly of sugar, pulses and vegetables.
Sugar prices have more than doubled since January 2009 and is ruling at Rs 43 a kg in the national capital. Pulses are ruling high, with arhar being sold at about Rs 85 a kg.
India faced a severe drought this year affecting over 300 districts that resulted in loss of Kharif production. Rice output is estimated to decline by 13 million tonnes in Kharif.
The Centre has taken various steps to curb rising prices and give relief to consumers, including abolition of import duties on sugar, rice, pulses and crude edible oils.