Price of the widely consumed superior Sona Masuri has shot up by Rs. 17 in a month
In a bid to check the dizzying price rise of the staple, the State government may limit the stock in hundreds of rice mills and wholesale dealers across the State to prevent hoarding. Consumers have been alarmed by the price shooting up in recent weeks amid reports of the cereal making its way to neighbouring States which too are facing the heat.
“The Union government withdrew State governments’ powers to limit stocks of foodgrains a few years ago; the Karnataka government had, last October, sought restoration of the power as far as rice is concerned,” a source in the Food and Civil Supplies Department told The Hindu.
The source, who didn’t want his name published, said: “The Union government has already restored the power. This is the only measure we can take to curtail spiralling rice prices as [right now] cross-border movement and export of rice cannot be curbed.” If the government imposes a limit on stock, hoarders will be forced to bring their stock into the open market, thereby bringing down the prices, the source said. “It is not just individual consumers who are affected by the hoarding and price rise; even wholesale traders too are crying themselves hoarse over the abnormal increase.” Rice export, inter-State movement and crop shortage this season are said to be the main reasons for the spiralling prices. With the prices having increased by about 25 to 30 per cent during the last one month of different varieties of Sona Masuri, the standard Sona Masuri, popular among the middle class, has touched an indigestible Rs. 46 to Rs. 48 a kg. While the cheapest variety, steam rice, is being sold at Rs. 40 to Rs. 42, the premium Bullet Rice has touched Rs. 57 in the retail market.
With neighbouring Tamil Nadu facing production shortfall, the staple cereal is finding its way there, causing shortage in Karnataka. Some quantity is even going to Andhra Pradesh, another big producer facing shortage.
Removing restrictions on export not only made India the top rice exporter, but it also pushed up domestic prices. Sources in the Agriculture Department said at least farmers are getting a good price because of this. Paddy, sold at Rs.16 a kg a few months ago, is sold at over Rs. 21 at present, sources said.
Another major reason, according to Ramesh Chandra Lahoti, president, Bangalore Wholesale Foodgrain Merchants’ Association, is crop failure during the last sowing season due to drought and farmers leaving their land fallow this season because of lack of irrigation facilities. Also, whoever has rice stock, may not be selling it, expecting to get better prices when the shortage peaks, he stated.
Ragi price too
The drought has also impacted ragi, the common man’s staple in southern Karnataka. This humble, hardy millet now costs Rs. 34 a kg as against Rs. 22 last month, Mr. Lahoti added.