Blaming hoarders for the recent spike in prices of onions, potatoes and other food items, the government Friday said it will take tough action in collaboration with states to reign in speculative volatility in prices.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley along with senior cabinet colleagues Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan and Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh, discussed with state food ministers measures to check the rising prices.
Addressing the ministers’ conference, Jaitley said there are enough food stocks in the country and the rise in prices is speculative.
“When production of food items is higher than last year and still prices rise, then it means that intermediaries are keeping the stock somewhere,” Jaitley said.
The finance minister said expectations of poor monsoon have led to hoarding. “There are reports of below normal monsoon this year. Hoarders are taking advantage of the situation,” he said.
Talking to reporters after the meeting, Paswan said the state food ministers have suggested several measures to curb the speculative rise in prices.
The suggested measures include setting up a Food Stabilisation Fund, creating food storage facilities in all 635 districts across the country, and implementing Food Security Act as early as possible.
Spike in prices of some food items, especially onions and potatoes, has become a big challenge for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government.
The government earlier this week hiked the minimum export price of onions by 67 percent and brought the vegetable under the Essential Commodities Act, with a view to curb hoarding and increase availability in the domestic markets.
Jaitley, however, said there is no panic situation as far as the price of onions is concerned as it remained relatively under control.
He pointed out that onion prices soared to Rs.70-100 per kg last year, while prices are much lower this year.
Paswan, who also holds consumer affairs and public distribution portfolio, said checking food inflation has become a priority agenda for the government.
He said there is need to put in place a preventive strategy to minimise the adverse impact of various factors including late monsoon on the prices and availability of essential food items.
“We have to be well prepared with an advance coordinated strategy in collaboration with all the state governments,” Paswan said.
Paswan said tough action is required by the states against those indulging in hoarding and black marketing. “Setting up of fast track courts for handling cases of hoarding and black marketing should be considered.”
Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh said there is no rationale behind the recent increase in prices of food items, as the production has gone up consistentely.
Singh said an artificial shortage created by hoarders is responsible for increase in prices of some of the food items.
“There is need to improve supply chains and storage facilities for smooth supply of perishable commodities such fruits and vegetables,” the agriculture minister added.