Proactive measures of UPA government insulated food prices: Sharad Pawar

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New Delhi, May 11 : Union Agriculture and Food Minister Sharad Pawar said on Sunday that the proactive stand of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government has kept a check on food prices in the country.

Soaring prices of food across the world are breaking the budgets of the poor and raising the specter of hunger and unrest, according to experts.

A billion people in Asia are seriously affected by the surging costs of daily staples such as rice and bread, according to the Asian Development Bank.

Experts blame the high food prices on a confluence of factors, including increased demand from a changing diet in Asia, droughts, rising use of crops for biofuels, and growing energy and fertilizer costs.

In India, as inflation spiraled to a record three-year high of 7.61 per cent, strikes and protests have been witnessed across the country against rising food prices.

New Delhi has already slashed food duties and banned exports of lentils and other staples, and will not hesitate to further "sacrifice revenues to control prices," said Finance Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram.

Meanwhile, Pawar, who is the president of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), an ally of the ruling Congress led UPA speaking on the occasion of the foundation day of the party, said that rising petroleum prices and increasing cost of farming has contributed to the price rise.

"Being an integral part of the global economy, it is but natural that world market will have an impact on the domestic price line. The government, however, due to its proactive polices, has been able to insulate the Indian market to a very great extent. Rising petroleum prices and increasing cost of farming have resulted in costlier food grain availability," said Pawar.

"However by maintaining a constant central issue price for the Below Poverty Line (BPL) families we have been able to provide food grains at a substantially lower price to the needy," added Pawar.

He further added that he is confident that farmers will rise up to the occasion and produce enough for internal consumption and the government is capable of ensuring food security of the nation.

"I place on record my gratitude to the farmers for having responded very positively to the government 's efforts and given record production of food grain this year. This policy of the government has been and will be to give remunerative MSP to the farmers, which in turn will ensure an increasing food grain production," said Pawar.

"I am confident that the farmers are capable to produce enough, if not more, to meet the food grain requirements of our people, and there will be no need for imports of food grains. The government is committed and determines to ensure the food security of the nation," added Pawar.

The UPA government faces a string of state polls this year and a General election by May 2009. Those prospects, plus rising prices -- especially of food and metals -- have dominated the media headlines in recent weeks.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has also stepped in to try to control price rises, although economists say there is a limit to what it can do, largely because inflation stems from supply constraints not domestic demand.

The soaring cost of food has fuelled unease across the world and many world leaders have said that the growing prosperity among the middle class in India and China has sparked off this food crisis.

Indian annual inflation at a three year high of 7.61 per cent in late April, prompted the Finance Minister to pledge that the government would take more action to tame prices if needed.

Still, wholesale inflation, the country's most closely followed measure of price trends, has more than doubled since November as India, like other countries globally, saw its import bill for oil and food prices soar.

Analysts said recent moves by the government and the RBI to boost supplies and curb inflation-stoking cash circulating in the banking system would pay off, but inflation would remain high for some time.

ANI

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