PM anxious over drought-like situation: Food min



New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today reviewed the drought-like situation in some parts of the country and its impact on prices with Food Minister K V Thomas who suggested stepping up imports of pulses and edible oils.

"The Prime Minister is anxious about drought-like situation...I informed him that there is no problem about availability of rice, wheat and sugar. The only concern is about pulses and edible oils," Thomas told PTI.

The steps being considered to deal with the situation include supply of up to two lakh tonnes of imported pulses through ration shops, he said. On edible oils, he said, the supply has to be increased through larger imports. The imports will be undertaken by the state-owned trading agencies like MMTC, STC and PEC.

These initiatives would also be discussed in the meeting of empowered group of ministers (EGoM) on drought expected on July 31, he added. It will be chaired by Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar.

After taking a briefing from India Meteorological Department (IMD) chief L S Rathore, Thomas today met Pawar and later the Prime Minister.

Thomas said there is no panic as there is enough stock of rice and wheat. However, the government has alerted commodities futures regulator Forward Market Commission (FMC) to curb speculation and price manipulation in farm items.

Monsoon is deficient by 22 per cent so far, but the shortfall is expected to narrow down in the coming days with expected revival in rains, according to IMD chief.

The situation in Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan is, however, a matter of concern.

Sowing of kharif (summer) crops, particularly coarse cereals, has been affected.

PTI