I call upon you to use powers to check hoarding and black marketing effectively to ensure that no black-marketing or hoarding takes place.

Blaming hoarding of essential commodities and speculation in the market for the sudden spurt in the prices of essential commodities particularly pulses, Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar on Saturday said that unless States took action, the Centre would not be able to control the price situation.

At the conference of State Chief Secretaries to discuss the situation created due to deficit rainfall, Mr. Pawar urged States to use their powers and take effective steps to put down the sudden spurt in prices of essentials and also advised them to control fodder prices. Unless effective steps are taken to prevent black marketing and hoarding, we will not be able to control the price situation, he said.

Reminding the State bureaucracy that the powers to check hoarding and black marketing lay with the States, he said, I call upon you to use these powers effectively to ensure that no black-marketing or hoarding takes place.

Pointing out that the production of pulses this year, at 14.66 million tonnes, almost matched last years level of 14.76 million tonnes, he said 2.6 million tonnes of pulses had already been imported this year, therefore there is no reason for prices to rise in this fashion merely on a supply-demand gap. Mr. Pawar said the country faced a deficiency of 25 per cent in monsoon rainfall with higher deficits in northwest and northeast regions.

A natural, though negative, fallout of this deficit rainfall has been a shortfall in paddy sowing to the extent of nearly 6 million hectares with only 58 per cent of the normal area having been sown till date. Sugarcane coverage is also less and is a matter of concern as prevailing climate conditions are likely to affect production. The sowing with regard to coarse grain, though better than paddy, is still a matter of concern.

In this situation, there is immediate need to protect the standing crops from further damage by providing supplementary irrigation. This is more important for the States where agriculture is largely rain fed."

He advised States to create fodder hanks, adopt price control measures to ensure that fodder is made available at a reasonable price. If there are areas where no further edible crops can be grown, cultivation of fodder crops may be done.

Mr. Pawar informed the meeting that has a one-time measure the government had allowed States to use Truthfully Labelled seeds under alternate cropping plants. The Ministry was pre-pining Rabbi Campaign meetings for cropping patterns.

According to him though the government was comfortable with 253 lakh tonnes of wheat and 323 lakh tonnes of rice, inadequate public stocks could fuel inflationary tendencies, therefore procuring adequate stocks for the Public Distribution System was of crucial importance. To ensure that prices of foodgrains did not rise on account of deficient rainfall, the Food Ministry had allocated 10 kg. of rice or wheat per card to all Above Poverty Line families. This was in addition to providing the full quota of 35 kg. per month on Below Poverty Line and Antyodaya Anna Yojna cards. The onus of ensuring that the allocated foodgrain reaches the intended beneficiaries lies with you and I am sure no State will be found wanting in this, he told the state representatives.