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Sugar prices to be held till November

K. Balchand

Minister promises efforts to keep food grain rates affordable


Discrimination in the export of rice and wheat denied

Mill owners warned against raising sugar prices before allowing export


NEW DELHI: The Union government on Wednesday admitted that the hike in diesel prices would adversely impact food grain prices in the open market but promised to hold sugar prices till November, when the festival season comes to a close.

Addressing a press conference here, Union Minister for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution K.V. Thomas said the decision to allow the export of the second 5 lakh tranche of sugar would not impact prices. He denied that there was any pressure from Cabinet Ministers. Union Water Resources Development Minister Salman Khurshid was also present.

Prof. Thomas said his Ministry had sought to hold off export till November but the EGoM, after assessing several factors, had approved it. He said his Ministry had an alternative mechanism in place should prices rise.

He said the government would intervene in the market and not allow the prices to hit the roof, as had happened last year. He said the mill owners had been warned against raising prices of sugar and an assurance had been drawn from them before the various recommendations for allowing the export were accepted.

While declining to answer a question whether export would be stopped if the prices rose sharply again, the Minister said the entire allocated quantity would not be allowed for transhipment at one go.

Denying that there was any discrimination in the export of rice and wheat, he said the matter would be discussed at the next meeting of the EGoM on Food. The good production and procurement would be kept in view, he said.

Prof. Thomas said the government had to assess the burden and requirement in the light of the proposed food security law, the climate forecast and the buffer stock before it decided whether to release wheat and rice from the Central pool or not.

But he admitted that the rise in diesel prices would impact the open market prices of food grains, which, he pointed out, were also impacted by the minimum support prices, which had been doubled in recent times. The attempt would be to keep food prices affordable.

As for the proposed Food Security Bill, Prof. Thomas said the EGoM would take the decision on whether to extend the security to a part of the Above Poverty Line families, which the NAC has recommended, as it was likely to impact the open market prices.

While stressing that the promises made by the Congress would be kept in mind while formulating the law, Prof. Thomas evaded questions whether the Bill would be introduced in Parliament during the monsoon session.

Under the proposed Bill, the first lady of the family will be treated, as part of the move to empower them, as the head of the family.

Referring to the instruction of the Supreme Court, he said the government would release 50 lakh tonnes of food grains to be distributed among the Below Poverty Line families of the 150 most backward districts as and when the court identified the districts to be benefited.

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