Government raises pulse buffer stock limit, mulls more ways to check price

New Delhi : Unnerved by the growing prices of essential commodities and pulses, the central government on Wednesday decided to enhance pulses’ buffer stock from 1.5 lakh tonnes to 8 lakh tonnes while deliberating on more ways to check rising prices, official sources said.

The decision was taken at a meeting of a high-powered ministerial team headed by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley here, the sources said here.

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The team which also had Union Ministers Radha Mohan Singh (Agriculture), Ram Vilas Paswan (Food), Nirmala Sitharaman (Commerce) as well as Nitin Gadkari (Surface Transport) and M. Venkaiah Naidu (Parliamentary Affairs) plunged into damage control exercise, chalking out a roadmap and stringent measures to bring down the prices.

The high-powered ministerial panel met on the directive of Prime Minister Narendra Modi as growing prices of essential item like potatoes (60 per cent dearer in wholesale markets) and pulses getting costlier by 36 per cent over the past year, pushed up India’s annual wholesale inflation for the second month in May to its highest levels in nearly two years.

“Gadkari and Venkaiah Naidu were not part of the original ministerial team set up recently. But today they attended the meeting as special emissaries of the Prime Minister,” a source said.

“In order to bring down the growing prices of pulses, the government today decided to boost imports via public and private agencies. This will help meet the deficit,” an official source told IANS.

The government is also keen to work out joint strategies with states and sought urgent steps on adequate procurement and actions against hoarders. The meeting, also attended by senior officials from the Food, Finance and Agriculture ministries, reviewed steps taken so far on inadequate storage facilities and procurement problems.

The procurement of Rabi (winter) pulses has reached to 64,000 MT while the government has also ordered further import of 12,500 MT pulses for buffer stocks. A ministry source said that together with earlier procurement of 51,000 MT of kharif (summer) crop, total domestic procurement of pulses by June 13 had reached 1,15,000 MT.

At the meeting, Paswan also said that while a pulse buffer stock is ready, the response from many states has not been encouraging.

Besides pulses, the meeting also discussed the price conditions of tomato, sugar and wheat.

Sources also said the meeting was also told that as a precautionary measure the government has procured 20,000 tonnes of onion to create a buffer stock to be utilised for market intervention.

Earlier in the day, the Food ministry also flagged off mobile vans for selling pulses at reasonable prices in the capital.

Paswan told reporters that “Our department has been asked to procure more pulses for buffer stock” and added that a team of officials will visit Myanmar soon to ensure early and smooth import of lentils.

India’s retail inflation also rose for the second straight month in May to 5.76 per cent from 5.47 per cent in the month before due to a sharp spike in food prices, Consumer Price Index (CPI) data said on Monday.