Availability of commodities to be augmented

The Centre on Wednesday stepped up its efforts to rein in food inflation, which touched 18.32 per cent for the week ended December 25 last with onion price soaring to Rs. 60 a kg in retail.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who later held a closed-door meeting with Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar and Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia. Mr. Pawar said the decisions taken at the inter-ministerial meeting would be communicated to the Prime Minister.

Separately, Chairman of the Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council C. Rangarajan also met Dr. Singh. Informed sources said the Prime Minister was holding a series of consultations with experts and economists on how to tame the high food inflation triggered by the zooming prices of onions, other vegetables, meat, eggs, milk and edible oils. On Tuesday, he consulted senior Ministers.

Efforts are on to augment availability of commodities either through imports or by banning exports, and by facilitating seamless inter-State movement. The Centre has already banned the export of onions, pulses and rice.

There are expectations that the Reserve Bank of India too will announce some measures to curb inflation at its monetary and credit policy review meeting by month-end.

As for onions, the situation in Asia's biggest market, the Azadpur mandi, was brought under control as traders called off their strike at the intervention of the Delhi government. Pakistan has also reportedly allowed export to India on orders that were finalised before January 4. In addition, about 500 tonnes of imported onions are expected to arrive at the Mundra port in Gujarat by weekend. Fresh arrivals from Gujarat, Maharashtra and Karnataka by weekend will also help.

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