Manmohan to convene meeting of CMs’ on price rise
NEW DELHI: The Centre on Wednesday announced a slew of measures to curb the soaring prices of essential commodities, and expressed the hope that sugar price would come down in a week.
Addressing journalists after a meeting of the Union Cabinet’s Committee on Prices, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said import of duty-free white sugar would be extended till December 2010 with no cap on quantities, and additional wheat and rice offloaded in the open market at reasonable rates.
Mr. Pawar said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would convene a meeting of the Chief Ministers by this month-end to seek their cooperation in curbing the prices of essential commodities.
During the meeting chaired by Dr. Singh, several Cabinet Ministers expressed concern over the food inflation hovering around 20 per cent in December.
While the Uttar Pradesh government was singled out for imposing a ban on movement of imported raw sugar, the meeting largely agreed that the States should come down heavily on hoarders and speculators.
The meeting also decided that the States needed to lift subsidised imported edible oil and pulses and the wheat and rice made available by the Centre for the open market. They also needed to check middlemen in the sale chain as the prices of wholesale produce were much lower than retail prices.
Mr. Pawar requested the States to reduce Value Added Tax and other taxes on imported sugar as well as the high mandi taxes on food grain arrivals in mandis. High taxes on essentials were adding to the high prices of food items, he added.
Sugar prices have shot up to Rs. 50 per kg in Delhi.
Smuggling to be checked
The government has decided to waive the excise duty for processing raw sugar imported by U.P. mills in other States. “This will make available about nine lakh tonnes of imported raw sugar that is lying at the Kandla and Mundra ports. With this sugar on hand, after processing, the availability will improve and the prices will come down within a month,” he said.
Mr. Pawar said sugar availability at the end of the season would be about 241 lakh tonnes, against the demand of 230 lakh tonnes.
“According to the latest information, the ex-factory price of sugar in Maharashtra will come down to Rs.32 a kg in a week and is likely to be lower in Uttar Pradesh and southern States,” he said. Additionally, the Centre will take steps to check the smuggling of sugarcane and sugar into Nepal.
To augment supplies of wheat and rice, the Centre has decided to make available to States up to five lakh tonnes of wheat and two lakh tonnes of rice at rates equal to the minimum support price for the produce plus freight. Government agencies and cooperatives will now directly sell imported subsidised edible oils, pulses, wheat and rice. Public sector trading agencies have been asked to import pulses from wherever available in the world including Myanmar, Singapore and Turkey.