New Delhi: The soaring prices of essential commodities will start coming down in 8-10 days, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said Wednesday, adding that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had called a meeting of the chief ministers here January 27 to discuss the issue.
"With the measures we have taken, the prices of essential commodities are expected to start coming down in 8-10 days," he told reporters here after a meeting of the cabinet committee on prices chaired by Manmohan Singh.
“The Prime Minister will also review the implementation of Essential Commodities Act during his meeting with the Chief Ministers,” Pawar said.
Pawar announced several measures aimed at controlling the rising food prices, and ensuring easy availability of essential commodities in the open market.
Announcing a slew of measures to improve the food situation, the Agriculture Minister said, “The state governments will be allocated more wheat, rice and pulses and have been directed to release full lift of the quota allocated to them earlier.
Cereals and Pulses
The government will intensify the import of pulses and nearly 5 lakh tonnes of wheat and 2.5 lakh tonnes rice will be released shortly through NAFED and other agencies to avert the crisis.
“A decision to release more funds for ensuring the availability of wheat and pulses has been taken by the government,” Pawar said.
Pawar also said that state governments were not lifting the wheat and rice stocks made available to them by the central government and mentioned that the PM will take up the matter with the CMs when he meets them over the issue.
Pawar, while maintaining that sugar production has been low, said the government has consequently decided to import about 40 lakh tons of raw sugar.
The minister also said 20 lakh tons have already arrived in the country and are being processed.
“Government has extended the deadline for import of duty-free white sugar beyond March 31st till Dec 31st, 2010 to augment domestic supply and curb the rising price,” he added.
The minister further informed that several lakh tonnes of white sugar imported by the sugar mills are still lying unutilised on various ports. In view of this, the government has decided to relax the existing norms and remove additional duties so as to expedite the movement and refining of sugar and its availability in the open market, Pawar added.
Pawar further asked the state government to remove restriction such as WAT and additional cess on the import of sugar, which will help in bringing down uniformity in sugar prices through out the country.
On the issue of black-marketing of food items, Pawar said, “The state governments have been directed to initiate steps to check black marketing and hoarding of essential commodities to ensure easy availability of necessary items.”
Additionally, steps will be taken to check smuggling of sugarcane and sugar from India to Nepal, he said.
PM assures action
Earlier, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh assured swift action to check price rise.
The Cabinet Committee on Prices (CCP), which met at the residence of Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, discussed the thorny issue of rising prices od essential commodities.
Addressing the CCP at his residence, Prime Minister said, “All steps will be taken by the government to curb price rise.”
During the meeting, the Prime Minister was briefed by the Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar over the food situation and the steps taken by the government to prevent black marketing and hoarding.
Several cabinet ministers and allies, who attended the CCP meet, expressed grave concerns over the rising prices of essential food commodities and the government’s inability to control it.
Union Railways Minister Mamta Banerjee and Ambika Soni quizzed Pawar over his failure to improve the situation and ensuring essential commodities at affordable prices to the common citizens.
The meeting assumes significance in view of rocketing inflation, which has soared to a decade`s high of 20% in the first week of December.
Petrol prices may go up
The Prime Minister is also due to review the financial health of oil PSUs at a meeting with Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Petroleum Minister Murli Deora today evening.
Petrol prices may go up by Rs 3 a litre if Prime Minister accepts the Petroleum Ministry`s proposal to free pricing of petrol while gradually increasing the diesel rates.
The government has till now not allowed state-run Indian Oil, Bharat Petroleum and Hindustan Petroleum to raise rates of petrol, diesel, domestic LPG and kerosene despite the cost of raw material (crude oil) jumping to USD 82 per barrel.