New Delhi: Brushing aside speculations that India might have to augment imports to contain soaring food prices, Planning Commission Member Abhijit Sen on Monday said the country may not need to import wheat and rice this year, as it is heading towards a record production.
“The world is looking at the imports of India and China this year. And I am pretty sure, lot of people would be disappointed by the import size of the two countries. In case of India, the size would be a zero for foodgrains,” Sen said while inaugurating a five-day workshop on “Integrated Supply Chain Management: Opportunities For Small Farmers” here.
The workshop is being organised by the Agricultural and Food Marketing Association for Asia and the Pacific and hosted by Food Corporation of India.
Sen said India should be comfortable in wheat and rice though it may have to import pulses.
The Planning Commission Member said except a few items such as edible oils, food prices in the country have not risen “much”.
“But they (prices) are rising, and it is a matter of concern. So far as one item is concerned, it is the prices of edible oil that have gone up. Wheat and atta prices have not shot up much,” he pointed out.
Sen attributed high food prices to decline in global production vis-à-vis consumption, dip in world grain stocks and conversion of corn and oilseeds to make bio-fuels.
He said the time has come where “we realise that the world builds up high level of stocks”, which it had been doing some 10-15 years back. The country needs to maintain high stocks besides planning to raise production, he added.
Earlier, speaking on the occasion, Food Secretary T Nanda Kumar underlined the need for reducing handling losses by agencies during procurement of foodgrains.
“Today, the call is saving whatever we can, before moving to next level of production,” he said, adding that the country cannot afford to lose even a single grain, as food has become costlier.
He said the buoyancy in the global food prices may not be liked by consumers, but will benefit the farmers. “If they (farmers) get higher prices, will produce more, leading to better availability of foodgrains across the world,” he said.
In his address, Food Corporation of India (FCI) CMD Alok Sinha said the storage and transit losses of the corporation have declined to 0.5% of its total turnover. FCI procures about 40 million tons of foodgrains annually.
Later, talking to reporters on the sidelines, Sinha agreed with Sen that the country may not have to import wheat this year. He ruled out FCI using the call option route to purchase wheat from abroad.