Minister expresses helplessness

HYDERABAD OCT. 5. The Civil Supplies Minister, C. Mutyam Reddy, has expressed the State Government's inability to procure foodgrains for the Public Distribution System for want of sufficient godowns and expertise.

West Bengal and other States took up procurement from traders but their production levels were far less compared to AP, he said at a seminar on the new foodgrains policy organised here on Saturday by the Federation of A.P. Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FAPCCI), Indian Institute of Economics and A.P. Grain and Seed Merchants Association.

The Minister said despite the constraints the Civil Supplies Corporation had procured 3.5 lakh metric tonnes of grains last year as against 1.5 lakh MTs by the Food Corporation of India (FCI).

Mr. Reddy's observation assumes significance in the background of a recommendation for decentralised procurement by the States made by the high-level committee constituted by the Central Government for formulating a long-term grain policy.

The Joint Secretary, Policy, Ministry of Food and Public Distribution, Sanjay Kaul, said the projection of offtake from the Central pool this financial year is 46 million tonnes, of which 14 million tonnes would be for the PDS, seven million tonnes for the Food-for-work programme, 12 million tonnes for exports, three-and-a-half million tonnes for the mid-day meal scheme and eight to nine million tonnes for the open market sale.

K.R. Venugopal, former Secretary to the Prime Minister, said millers demanded the levy system for rice. He criticised the implementation of Minimum Support Price (MSP).

T. Radha, Managing Director, State Civil Supplies Corporation, said the State was in the forefront in implementing the PDS. The corporation was not competent to take up procurement as it did not have technically trained manpower. It did not even have cleaning machines for paddy. The FCI with manpower of two lakhs and an annual turnover of Rs. 70,000 crores was in a better position to take up the job, he said.

Stating that the present system of procurement by FCI was good, Mr. Radha said the distribution aspect should be entrusted to the corporation.

D. Sambasiva Rao, Senior Regional Manager, FCI, said the levy policy was an instrument of harassment for the traders.

V.K. Srinivasan, Director, Indian Institute of Economics here, Gautam Pingle, Chairman, Public Policy and Systems, Administrative Staff College of India, and K. Subrahmanyam, Chairman, Public Enterprises Review Committee, also spoke.

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