As prices of essential items shot up compounding worries about drought, the Centre today said it will decide in a week on offloading rice and wheat from its reserves in the open market to augment supply.

Briefing reporters on steps taken to curb rising prices, Food and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said the Centre also wants States to invoke the Essential Commodities Act.

“I will raise issue of importance of the Essential Commodities Act with the chief ministers and food ministers as states are empowered to take measures under the Act,” Mr. Pawar said when asked about the need for resorting to price control mechanism as he recently prescribed for in fodder.

His remarks follow Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s directive to States last week to crack down on hoarding and black marketing of essential commodities.

“We have convened a meeting of state food ministers on August 19 and we will discuss how to improve the functioning of public distribution system,” Mr. Pawar told reporters here.

He said the an empowered Group of Ministers (eGoM) on food, headed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, will take a decision in its meeting in a week on offloading wheat and rice from its reserves in the open market to contain price rise.

The Centre had over 50 million tonnes of wheat and rice in reserves by July—end, enough to feed the entire country for close to three months.

A GoM, also to be headed by Mr. Mukherjee, to tackle drought, was also formed amid some states declaring drought or drought—like situation in 177 districts.

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