Some subsidy may be restored to tackle drought: Minister

July 27th, 2012 - 4:28 pm ICT by IANS  

Chennai, July 27 (IANS) The government would restart some of the subsidy programmes scrapped earlier to meet the drought-like situation following a patchy monsoon in many parts of the country this year, K.V. Thomas, union minister of state for consumer affairs, food and public distribution, said Friday.

He said the Empowered Group of Ministers (EGOM) headed by Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar on drought will meet next Tuesday to decide on the relief measures to be taken.

The minister said there are enough food stocks to meet the projected shortfall in production of some crops. According to him, the country has one year of rice stock and two years of wheat stock.

“This year the monsoon shortfall will be less than 23 percent, affecting Karnataka and some parts of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan, while production of wheat, rice and sugar would not be affected with production remaining at last year’s level. However, production of pulses, oil seeds will be impacted,” Thomas said.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a conference on food organised by Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) here, Thomas said the food grain production is estimated to be around 257 million tonnes during 2011-12, up from 245 million tonnes produced in 2010-11.

Last year the sugar production was 26 million tonnes and for the current year the estimation is 25 million tonnes. The final production will not be less than 24.5 million tonnes.

Asked about the exports of wheat and rice, Thomas said: “We want a stable export-import policy. Last year, 30 lakh (three million) tonnes of wheat and 55 lakh (5.5 million) tonnes of rice was exported under OGL (open general licence) category.”

He said wheat exports out of government stocks by the Food Corporation of India (FCI) will be considered after studying the drought situation.

On sugar exports, he said four million tonnes were exported last year. “Last week sugar prices in India went up by Rs.5/kg and we released sugar in the market.”

To reduce the 25-30 percent wastage of fruits and vegetables, he said the centre has asked the states to amend the APMC (Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee) Act to enable farmers to sell their produce in the open market, but the states were not willing.

He said the government was waiting for the outcome of the deliberations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Food, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution on the National Food Security Bill.

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