New Delhi: Food inflation eased a bit to
16.81 per cent in the week ending January 9, but was still too
high for the comfort of the government that announced measures
to augment supply of essential commodities.
The Centre has also called a meeting with states early
next month to discuss a strategy to douse the inflationary
flame, which Chief Statistician Pronab Sen said could push
overall inflation above nine per cent by this fiscal-end from
the current level of over seven per cent.
The government today swung into action to insulate the
poor from surging food prices and increased the ration quota
of rice and wheat to the poor by 10 kg per family for this
month and February.
Even though food inflation declined for the third week in
a row, the current level of around 17 per cent inflation is
quite high compared to last year`s 11.59 per cent. Food
inflation stood at 17.28 per cent a week ago.
Prices of essential items like pulses, potatoes and
cereals continued to rule high. Potatoes turned costlier by
close to 50 per cent year-on-year, while pulses became
costlier by 47.90 per cent.
Cereal prices were up 14.18 per cent, with wheat rising
nearly 15 per cent and rice 12.64 per cent.
"Unless something dramatic happens on agri prices, it
(inflation) would probably be over 9 per cent," Chief
Statistician Pronab Sen told reporters.
If overall inflation climbs over 9 per cent by this
fiscal-end, it would be more than three percentage points,
projected by the Reserve Bank. The intensity of inflation
could be gauged from the fact that the comfort zone of
inflation stands at four per cent.
The government has taken a slew of measures to step up
supply of foodgrain in retail markets to curb price rise. It
has authorised cooperative major NAFED and the National
Cooperative Consumers Federation to sell 70,084 tonnes of
wheat and 28,000 tonnes of rice through their outlets.
To bolster wheat supply in the open market, it has not
only lowered the price of wheat for sale to bulk consumers but
also simplified and reduced the time lag in finalisation of
tenders by the Food Corporation of India.
The government has allocated an additional 5.18 lakh
tonnes of wheat in addition to the existing 10 lakh tonnes,
for sale to bulk consumers under the open market sale scheme.
Planning Commission member Abhijit Sen said agricultural
produce will decline three per cent this fiscal. This may
further add to the shortages of food items in the country.
As food inflation continued to remain at high level,
despite easing for three consecutive weeks, economists expect
RBI to squeeze money supply to tame inflationary expectations.