Govt will take steps to curb any abnormal rise in wheat prices: Food Secretary
New Delhi, Nov 23 (PTI) The government on Wednesday said it is closely monitoring the prices of wheat and will take steps in case there is an abnormal rise in rates in the retail market.
Amid concerns over the spike in wheat prices despite export ban, Union Food Secretary Sanjeev Chopra that wheat and rice stocks position is comfortable and much above the government's buffer requirements.
"Rice prices are just flat. Wheat prices have gone up by 7 per cent in retail after the imposition of wheat ban in May and if we take into account the increase in Minimum Support Price (MSP), the price rise is 4-5 per cent," he told reporters here.
In May, the government banned exports of wheat to boost domestic supplies and control prices. Its wheat procurement fell to 187.92 lakh tonnes in 2022-23 marketing year from 434.44 lakh tonnes due to fall in domestic output and aggressive purchase by private parties.
On whether the ministry was considering any further steps like stockholding limits and open market sale scheme to check wheat prices, Chopra said, "the position right now does not warrant any other measures other than what has already been done. If we see any kind of abnormal increase in prices, then obviously, we will step in with measures at our command".
In September, the government also banned exports of broken rice due to an anticipated fall in production of rice in the wake of unseasonal rains and deficient monsoon in some Eastern states.
The secretary informed that an inter-ministerial committee is monitoring the prices of essential commodities on a weekly basis.
On edible oil, Chopra said that international prices of cooking oils were on a downward trend and therefore, domestic retail rates were likely to reduce further.
On whether the free ration scheme PMGKAY will be extended beyond December, the secretary said the government will take a decision at an appropriate time. In case, the scheme is extended, the government has enough stocks to meet the demand, he added.
Food Corporation of India (FCI) MD Ashok K K Meena said the government is regularly monitoring the price scenario of essential commodities and taking corrective measures as required.
"In comparison to last month, there is a marginal increase in retail and wholesale prices of wheat and wholesale price of rice. There is negligible hike in the retail price of rice and prices are under control," he said.
FCI has procured 277.37 lakh tonnes of paddy (185.93 lakh tonnes in terms of rice) till November 21 of 2022-23 marketing year (October-September) as against 263.42 lakh tonnes of paddy procured in the year-ago period.
The procurement target for kharif paddy crop has been set at 775.73 lakh tonnes. The estimate of rabi paddy procurement will be fixed in the month of February-March 2023, he added.
As on November 15, Meena said FCI has 201 lakh tonnes of wheat and 140 lakh tonnes of rice in the central pool.
The projected stock situation of wheat on April 1, 2023, is 113 lakh tonnes as against the buffer norm of 75 lakh tonnes. In case of rice, the stock is estimated at 237 lakh tonnes as against a buffer norm of 136 lakh tonnes at the start of the next financial year.
On the One Nation One Ration Card (ONORC) scheme, the food secretary said it has been implemented in all 36 States/UTs.
He also said the ministry will launch an awareness campaign, especially targeting the migrant population, about the scheme to ensure that all beneficiaries avail their quota under the National Food Security Act (NFSA). PTI MJH ANZ RAM