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Brinda Karat writes to Pawar on wheat import

Written by: Staff
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New Delhi, May 12 (UNI) Communist Party of India (Marxist) politburo member Brinda Karat has accused the Reliance Group of cornering large shares of wheat from the market and asked the government to clarify its decision to import another three million tonnes of the grain.

In a letter to Food and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, Ms Karat said aggressive interventions by private traders including companies like Reliance were responsible for the low buffer stocks of wheat in the country.

Big foreign companies have also entered the Indian market through agents, she said, while questioning the government policy on procurement of wheat.

Ms Karat said she had expressed concern over the low procurement over the last few years that was threatening the food security as well as the interests of farmers.

''Unfortunately the government has not paid sufficient attention to this fact that production of wheat has not increased over the last several years,'' the letter written yesterday said.

The CPI (M) Rajya Sabha member said Mr Pawar had stated that this year's procurement of wheat would exceed last year's and would reach 16.2 million tonnes.

''This target itself is low and inadequate considering that even in a drought year the procurement was 19 million tonnes,'' the letter said.

On the role of private traders, she said they not only come to the market earlier than the official agencies but have free access to go to different places to purchase directly from the farmers.

She expressed doubts on whether the private companies have been given concessions on payment of mandi rates, which the Food Corporation of India and other official agencies have to pay.

''In any case the private traders paid rates higher than the MSP (Minimum Support Price) offered to the farmers,'' the letter said.

The government decided last month to import 3 million tonnes of wheat in addition to the 500,000 tonnes already imported from Australia.

UNI FZ PR HS1427

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