New Delhi: Food Minister KV Thomas is expected to announce on Thursday steps such as sale of surplus wheat and rice through rations shops and open market to tackle any food price rise in the wake of drought-like situation in some parts of the country.
The Food Ministry is also considering relaunching sale of imported pulses and cooking oils through public distribution system (PDS) with increased subsidy.
Thomas is expected to unveil the measures on Thursday following direction from the Prime Minister Office, sources said.
The minister is likely to announce various initiatives planned by the government to ensure sufficient supply of foodgrains and other essential commodities.
Prices of food items such as sugar, pulses, cooking oils and vegetables have risen during the past few weeks amid concern over deficient monsoon and its likely adverse impact on Kharif crop production.
Overall, monsoon rain is deficient by 22 per cent so far with Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan being the worst affected states.
In crops, the sowing of coarse cereals has been impacted most, while the government expects to make up for shortfall in paddy areas.
Sources said PMO has asked the Food Ministry to use surplus foodgrains available in its godowns to tackle the problem of possible price rise.
It has advised supply of additional wheat and rice in states which consume coarse cereals like maize, jowar, bajra and ragi.
The ministry is contemplating allocating additional foodgrains to states, depending on their offtake, at a price slighly higher than the PDS rates, they said. (reo Del 82)
The ministry has already allocated 55 million tonnes of foodgrains for PDS supply. Besides, it has allocated extra 5 million tonnes of grains to poor families and three million tonnes of wheat to bulk users.
To insulate poor from high prices of pulses, sources said the government is planning supply of imported lentils via ration shops to BPL families with increased subsidy of Rs 20/kg. It is also mulling providing subsidised cooking oils through ration shops.
Retail prices of pulses and cooking oils have starting rising on sentiment that output might take a hit this year. For instance, tur prices have increased to Rs 74 a kg now from Rs 69 a kg during the same period last year, while masoor dal rates risen to Rs 60 a kg from Rs 53 a kg in the review period.
Similarly, groundnut oil prices have increased to Rs 167 a kg from Rs 128 a kg. Mustard oil prices have risen to Rs 103 a kg from Rs 78 a kg and soyaoil rates have gone up to Rs 95 a kg from Rs 83 a kg in the review period.
Due to good rains last year, the country had produced a record 257.44 million tonnes of foodgrains in the 2011-12 crop year (July-June).