Rethink food security bill: PawarOctober 19th, 2011 - 9:42 pm ICT by IANS
New Delhi, Oct 19 (IANS) The price at which foodgrain will be given under the proposed National Food Security Bill must be reconsidered to reduce the subsidy burden on the government, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said Wednesday.
“While the minimum support price (MSP) for foodgrain has been increased many times, the issue price has not been revised since 2002. It needs a relook,” Pawar said, addressing the Economic Editors’ Conference 2011.
MSP is the price at which the government buys grain from farmers while issue price is the price paid by those eligible for subsidised grain under the public distribution system.
The food security bill is a big ticket legislation being planned by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. The draft bill prepared by the food ministry has been sent to the states for consideration.
According to the draft bill, up to 75 percent of rural population and 50 percent of urban households would get monthly entitlement of 7 kg foodgrain per person, at Rs.3 per kg for rice, Rs.2 per kg for wheat and Re.1 per kg for coarse grains.
Pawar apprehended that the subsidised grain may be sold in the market if the distribution leakages in the PDS are not addressed.
“The food security bill is needed in the country but misuse of subsidy has to be checked,” Pawar added.
Earlier, there have been differences within the government on the availability of grain for the proposed bill and the subsidy involved.
According to a report by C. Rangarajan, head of prime minister’s economic advisory council, the grain requirement to roll out the programme would be 68.76 million tonnes against an availability of 56.35 million tonnes.
The report mentioned that the government’s food subsidy burden would go up to Rs.85,584 crore from the current Rs.56,000 crore.
Stating that food production this year is expected to cross 241 million tonnes achieved in 2010-11, Pawar said the demand for food will increase in future because of improved per capita income.
“To meet this challenge, we need to focus on improving per hectare productivity, besides increasing agricultural production,” said the minister.
Pawar said the cabinet will soon decide on the MSP of foodgrain for the Rabi sowing season.
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Tags: agriculture minister, beca, c rangarajan, coarse grains, crore, draft bill, economic advisory council, economic editors, editors conference, food ministry, food production, food subsidy, leakages, national food security, progressive alliance, public distribution system, rs 2, security bill, sharad pawar, urban households