Food Minister K.V. Thomas on Wednesday warned roller flour millers against encouraging diversion of food grains from the public distribution system (PDS).

“About 35 to 40 per cent of the food grains are diverted from fair price shops…and it comes to you,” he told roller flour millers. “I ask you not to encourage this.”

Earlier Food Secretary Sudhir Kumar had turned down a request from flour millers to bear the additional cost of 3 paise per kilogram for fortified “atta” that they want to be sold through the PDS.

“Now a days we talk of CSR and 3 paisa per kg is no amount to seek from the government,” he said.

Responding to the demand, Mr. Thomas said: “There are provisions in the law to provide nutritional security to pregnant women and children. We have taken the first step. Once it is done, we propose to provide nutritional security to all.”

Referring to the sudden rise in the price of wheat this year, he said the Centre is examining the reasons for undue rise in food prices despite high food grains production.

Even as food inflation rose sharply to 18.18 per cent in August, the rising price of onions, fruits, vegetables and milk have been a cause for concern for the government.

“With annual increase in the minimum support price of commodities there, some hike in the prices of agri-commodities but inflation in food grains should not be that sharp when there is enough supply,” he said at the 73 AGM of the Roller Flour Mills Federation.

Turning to the poor lifting by bulk traders of the 100 lakh tonnes of wheat released under the Open Market Sale Scheme (OMSS), Mr. Thomas said the government had relaxed the norms to improve offtake.

Now, instead of bulk consumers having to buy wheat only from Punjab and Haryana FCI godowns, the government has allowed them to pick up their requirement from FCI depots in respective States at a floor price of Rs. 1,500 per quintal and freight.

A Committee of Secretaries of food, finance, agriculture and commerce will set the OMSS price for each centre to reduce fluctuation in wheat prices. This will bring relief to the flour millers, who had been seeking a “policy” for OMSS.

The federation said high mandi taxes in the wheat-growing States tend to push up wheat prices. They sought zero tax on wheat.

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