New Delhi: A mismatch in the data between rice procured by the private sector and that exported has put the government on the trail of hoarders of the food grain, whose prices have shown an uptrend lately.
Only 10-12 companies have informed the Food Ministry about their rice procurement. “The total private procurement declared by these firms comes to about 11 lakh tons only,” a source said.
“How can it be that only 11 lakh tons have been purchased in the private sector when the country exported rice much more than that,” the source said.
Rice exports were allowed till 31 March, when the government decided to ban overseas sale of non-basmati varieties of rice.
The food grain is selling in the range of Rs15 to Rs20 a kg in the retail market, up from Rs10 to Rs15 per kg last year.
Last year, the Centre made it mandatory for the private sector to inform it if their rice procurement exceeded 25,000 tons at any time in the season and had asked them to file returns on a monthly basis till September 2008.
The Order, issued by the Food Ministry, also made filing of declaration compulsory with State government if any trader or private company buys over 10,000 tons of rice in the entire season. The returns are to be filed every month in a State where they purchase the maximum grain.
Sources said the Centre has already started enquiring the matter and the Commerce Ministry has supplied the export data of each exporter for 2007-08 season to the Food Ministry.
In 2007-08 season, exports started from October-November last year after the arrival of Kharif rice, grown in summer.
“However, the government banned export of non-Basmati rice in April 2008 as there was a considerable amount of rice already shipped to overseas markets leading to a sudden spurt in domestic prices,” they said, adding that shipments made in the six months were more than the declaration made by them.
Sources said it was not only the exporters who are at fault but many states are not following the order on declaration and not informing the Centre regularly about those who are filing the statements with them.
Officials at the Centre believe that states have not taken the order seriously though they are empowered to take action against erring traders or private companies.
The central government is taking the issue seriously and is evaluating the information on export and purchases and may take action if there was a mismatch, the sources said.
The Centre has procured 264 lakh tons of rice so far this season as against the targeted 276 lakh tons. Agriculture and Food Minister Sharad Pawar expressed confidence that it would procure 10 lakh tons in the next four weeks.