K.V. Thomas, Union Minister of State for Agriculture, Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution has said that the consultation process on the draft Food Security Bill has been completed by incorporating some changes and that the Bill will come up for Cabinet approval by November 20.

He said this while inaugurating an international two day seminar here on Thursday on the subject “economic slumps: challenges to Indian economy” organised by the Economics Department of the Fatima Mata National College as part of the diamond jubilee celebrations of the college.

Stating that the aim is to introduce the Bill in the forthcoming winter session of Parliament, Prof. Thomas said that once passed the Bill enables ration card holders to have legal right over subsidised food grains. If any fair price shop fails to provide food grains accordingly, strong legal action can be initiated against them.

During 2010-2011 the food grain production of the country was 120 million tonnes. It is estimated that the food grain production in the country will touch 123.88 million tonnes during 2011-2012. Five years ago the damage rate of food grains stored in granaries was 2.5 per cent. But now it has appreciable dropped to 0.003 per cent.

He said that the granaries of the country have sufficient stock of food grains to meet the requirements of the country for the next three years. In terms of quantity it is 17 million tonnes. Food inflation has dropped from a peak of 20 per cent in February 2010 to about 8 per cent in July this year. “30 per cent of the food grains produced in the country is procured and food grain inflation has more or less stabilised”.

Prof. Thomas however said that inflation continues to hit milk, eggs, fish, fruits and vegetables. The damage rate of fruits and vegetables stand at 20 to 25 per cent. Therefore the country will have to improve its storage methods for these products. “We will also have to increase our milk and meat production because of the consumption levels”.

The present food subsidy provided by the country stands at Rs. 63,000 crore. With the enactment of the Food Security Bill, the food security subsidy will touch Rs. 3.5 lakh crore. On every kilo gram of rice or wheat there is a subsidy component of Rs. 18, he said. Prior to the ration card modernisation programme there were 10.26 crore BPL ration card holders in the country. After modernisation the figure has dropped to 8 crore.

The general perception that India is largely a domestic demand driven economy which cannot be hit by global downturn is not fully true. The country’s foreign trade in goods and services is already over 50 per cent of the GDP. Our stock markets and currency markets are very sensitive to global cues. It means that we are not as insulated from global markets as we think, he said.

Delivering the presidential address, the Kollam Bishop Staley Roman said that the entire world economy is under the grip of depression. Sky rocketing of prices of essential commodities has broken the backbone of household budgets. Adverse economic news has become a daily affair. Jayaram Nayar, Director of the College of Banking and Financial Studies attached to the Central Bank of Oman delivered the keynote address. College principal Soosamma Kavumpurath welcomed the gathering and head of the Economics Department Dafne Joan D’souza proposed the vote of thanks.