New Delhi, Aug. 19 (ANI): Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar on Wednesday said that he expected rice output to slump by ten million tonnes this Kharif season, but added that the UPA Government would not hesitate to introduce measures to check spiraling prices of rice and wheat in the wake of bad monsoon.
Addressing a conference of State Food and Civil Supplies Ministers here on Wednesday, Pawar said the government is keen to buy more to build adequate reserves and strengthen the Public Distribution System (PDS).
He asked states to ensure the purchase of at least half of the total rice procured by private millers for the PDS and called for a review of high taxes levied by certain states on procurement of food grains by government agencies.
Pawar also said that the government is considering an increase in the percentage of levy sugar to make more sugar available through the PDS.
He asked state governments to put in place a mechanism to check inflationary trends.
He said that the food subsidy has grown manifold in the past few years and in 2009-10 it is estimated to cross 60,000 crore rupees.
Pawar said the government has also decided to revive the scheme to distribute subsidized imported oils.
Spelling out steps to ease the imports of essential commodities, he said that zero duty import of pulses will continue till March 2010.
The scheme for distribution of imported pulses through the PDS which expires in September is likely to be extended, he added.
Pawar revealed that there is 253 lakh tonnes of wheat and 326 lakh tonnes of rice in the central pool as of now, which is quite comfortable.
Speaking on the sidelines of the same function, Pawar said ten states have declared 246 districts as drought-affected. He said top priority is to save standing crops.(ANI)