New Delhi, September 14
Retail prices of key essential food items, especially wheat, rice, sugar, and edible oil prices, are unlikely to see any sharp upswing in the upcoming festival season as the country has adequate supply and the government is keeping a close vigil on hoarders, Food Secretary Sanjeev Chopra said on Thursday.
"So my analysis is that in the next upcoming festive season, I do not see any kind of a sharp upswing in prices of the commodities that we deal with whether it is wheat or rice or sugar or edible oils," Chopra told reporters.
The government is taking "corrective action" whenever it's required. For instance, the stock limit was further reduced to 2,000 tonnes for traders, wholesalers, and big chain retailers with immediate effect amid an uptick in prices, he said.
He also said there is an adequate supply of wheat, rice, sugar, and edible oils in the country.
On sugar, the secretary said although sugar prices are holding stable, due to some rumours of likely shortage due to lower monsoon in August has led to an upswing in prices recently in some markets.
"So, this is just to clarify that there's adequate sugar stock of 85 lakh tonne in the country, which is sufficient for three and a half months requirements," he said.
For the festive season, the government is adequately prepared. The government has released 25 lakh tonne, two lakh tonne excess in August, he said.
Broadly, the sugar availability is good and the government does not subscribe to the apprehension aired by the industry body ISMA on the likely dip in sugarcane production this year, he said.
It is because the rainfall at the beginning of this month has been good in Karnataka and Maharashtra and "we are hopeful that the sugarcane production will get a big boost," he said.
On wheat, the secretary said even wheat stocks are adequate in the country and the retail prices are ruling stable at Rs 30 per kilogramme on average at present.
The government has further reduced stock limit on traders, wholesalers, and big chain retailers to curb hoarding and check any sharp rise in prices, he said.
As of August 31, the government had a wheat stock of 255 lakh tonnes as against the requirement of 202 lakh tonnes, he said and added that the government can go for an aggressive sale of wheat in the open market in case the situation demands.
In the case of rice, the secretary said, "Rice again is something which is on our radar and we are concerned about 10 per cent increase in prices." Rice prices are rising primarily because of a negative sentiment being created that the monsoon this year has been not so good and the rice production is going to get impacted.
"This is just a sentiment being created negatively by some people. I think through you I'd like to convey that the crop situation is good. ...There is going to be a good crop, there is no shortage," he said.
With regard to edible oils, the secretary said the country has imported stock of 37 lakh tonnes of edible oils at present, higher than 27 lakh tonnes last year.
The industry has imported record edible oil this year taking advantage of low global prices.
"So, there is an excess stock and as a result, we do not foresee any shortages or any increase in prices in the coming season," he added.
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