Government assures on prices as food inflation zooms to double-digits (Roundup)

December 23rd, 2010 - 7:29 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi, Dec 23 (IANS) As high prices of onions, fruits, milk, eggs, meat and poultry pushed India’s annual food inflation to double-digits, the government Thursday took more steps to augment supplies and assured people their financial burden will ease soon.Apart from asking the state-run trading agencies, MMTC, STC and PEC, to import onions, Cabinet Secretary K.M. Chandrasekhar chaired a key meeting here Thursday and decided to move the tuber from all possible places to deficit states like the national capital.

Officials also said nearly 130 truckloads of onions had already arrived from Pakistan and another 40-50 were expected Friday. Traders have contracted for around 1,000 tonnes from Pakistan and more than half of that had already arrived in India.

“I understand that there is a shortfall in Maharashtra but Karnataka has reasonably good supplies. Gujarat is also producing quite a lot of onions. We will try to make some more movements,” Chandrasekhar told reporters after a meeting of a panel of secretaries.

“We will do whatever required to bring down the prices of onions,” he said, amid nationwide furore over high onion prices, caused by crop damage in the main growing regions in Maharashtra due to heavy rains.

Similar curbs, officials said, may be taken for tomatoes, which have also become dearer in past week, with prices shooting up from around Rs.15 per kg in the national capital to over Rs.40 per kg.

Chandrasekhar’s remarks came as India’s food inflation based on wholesale prices zoomed to double-digit levels of 12.13 percent for the week ended Dec 11 from 9.46 percent the week before, marking the third successive week of rise and a four-month high.

Commerce Minister Anand Sharma Thursday said some 1 million tonnes of the crop against the annual production of 18 million tonnes was lost due to unseasonal rains, but that supplies will be augmented through duty-free imports and the ban on exports.

In the national capital, the state government kept up its operations against hoarders, which had a sobering effect on onion prices, the retail rate of which fell to around Rs.70 per kg from around Rs.80 a few of days ago.

“Both the central and Delhi governments have taken a series of measures. The impact has been seen in the wholesale market. We hope the prices will come down further very soon,” Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit told reporters here.

Both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee have expressed major concern over the high price line and have assured that the annual inflation rate will fall to around 5 percent by the end of this fiscal.

“We made all efforts to reduce inflation and will continue them. By March next year, inflation is expected to settle at 5.5 percent,” the prime minister said in his address at the 83rd Congress plenary here Monday.

The following are the yearly rise and fall in prices of some main commodities that form the sub-index for food articles in the official wholesale price index as on Dec 11:

Onions: 33.48 percent

Vegetables: 15.54 percent

Fruits: 20.15 percent

Potatoes: (-)27.99 percent

Milk: 17.83 percent

Eggs, meat, fish: 19.35 percent

Cereals: (-)0.35 percent

Rice: 1.4 percent

Wheat: (-)5.14 percent

Pulses: (-)10.77 percent

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