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Updated: October 7, 2010 19:26 IST

Low procurement may stall NAC’s food security law

PTI
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CAN WE HAVE SOME MORE?: The proposed Food Security Act requires stocks of at least 70 million tonnes while the annual procurement of the Food Ministry has not exceeded 58 million tonnes.
The Hindu Business Line CAN WE HAVE SOME MORE?: The proposed Food Security Act requires stocks of at least 70 million tonnes while the annual procurement of the Food Ministry has not exceeded 58 million tonnes.

"To implement the NAC's two proposals, the grain requirement is estimated to be over 70 million tonnes. We have shared that any requirement of the grain over 55 million tonnes would be difficult to meet," an official source said.

The latest challenge to the proposed food security law has come from the government’s procurement agencies as the Food Ministry procures only 55 million tonnes of foodgrains a year against the 70 MT required to meet the National Advisory Council’s (NAC) prescription.

According to official sources, the ministry has expressed concern that there would be supply constraints in implementing the proposal of the NAC, which is looking into different aspects of the draft food security bill.

“Last month, the NAC came up with two proposals. To implement these two proposals the grain requirement is estimated to be over 70 MT. We have shared that any requirement of the grain over 55 MT would be difficult to meet,” an official source said.

The average annual procurement during the last 10 years has been only around 44 million tonnes, the source said.

In the first proposal, the NAC had suggested introduction of universal public distribution system (PDS) initially for 150 poorest districts, out of India’s over 600 districts. Under this, it has proposed to offer 35 kg of rice/wheat at Rs 3/kg to families, sources said.

The second proposal was to provide 35 kg of foodgrains to 42 per cent of rural families and 33 per cent of urban families. Besides, NAC has proposed 25 kg to APL families in rural areas at Rs 5 or Rs 7.5 per kg.

NAC, headed by UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, has sought views of the Food Ministry and Planning Commission, among others, before finalising its recommendation on the proposed law.

In the last meeting held on September 24, there were different views on the quantum of foodgrains that need to be procured to support the food security plan for poor. Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia offered to step up gradually the procurement of foodgrains to about 70 million tonnes to meet the requirements desired by the Council.

India’s peak foodgrain production was 180 MT in 2008-09 and peak procurement has been 58 MT, the same year.

A section of the NAC wanted the procurement target to be raised substantially at the earliest.

“There is still no consensus on the issue of procurement of foodgrains,” an NAC member had said.

The UPA government has proposed to table the National Food Security Act which promises to provide 25 kg of rice or wheat to families below poverty line (BPL) at Rs 3 per kg.

The Centre has set up an EGOM to finalise the draft bill of the proposed law. The Panel had asked the Planning Commission to suggest the number of beneficiaries to be covered under the law. Meanwhile, the NAC has also taken up the issue and would give its recommendation to the government.

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