Cost of additional food grains a bone of contention

Even as the National Food Security Bill is pending in Parliament, the Centre has conveyed to certain States that their foodgrain allocation would decline in spite of the mandatory 75 per cent rural and 50 per cent urban populations being covered under the proposed new law.

Among the 18 States which stand to lose are Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Delhi, Uttarakhand and some north-eastern States.

While the government will protect the current allocation for each State, the bone of contention is over the cost at which the Food Ministry will make additional grains available.

With the Food Subsidy Bill estimated at Rs. 1.24 lakh crore, the Centre is not willing to give States the additional food grains at the same subsidised rates. The political catch is that the Congress allegedly does not want to share with States any of the credit for the “game-changing” measure.

The Ministry is moving a proposal in Cabinet for provision of additional grains at the minimum support price given to farmers for wheat and paddy, highly placed sources told The Hindu .

The support price for wheat in 2013-14 has been fixed at Rs. 1,350 per quintal. In 2013, it was Rs. 1,250 per quintal for common variety paddy and Rs. 1,280 for the grade ‘A’ variety.

As against this, the Central issue price under the Food Security Bill for rice will be Rs. 3 per kg, for wheat Rs 2 per kg and for coarse cereals Re. 1 per kg.

Under the new dispensation 17 States and UTs will gain and 18 will stand to lose slightly.