New Delhi: Nearly half of the country is reeling under drought that could cut rice production by over 10%, but the government would use its reserves to check prices and also increase ration supplies, agriculture minister Sharad Pawar said on Wednesday.
The Centre will release wheat and rice from its reserves in the open market if their prices go up. It is also mulling increasing sugar supply through ration shops, he said at a conference of state food ministers to discuss strategies on drought and price rise.
“Ten states have declared 246 districts as drought- affected. This comes to about 46-47% of total districts in the country,” he told reporters.
“Shortfall in monsoon may result in area under paddy coverage falling by about 5.7 million hectares (from last year’s level) and the production of rice may reduce by 10 million tonnes,” he said, adding that some shortfall in oilseeds and sugarcane output was also expected.
India produced 99.15 million tonnes of rice in 2008-09, including 84.58 MT in the last Kharif.
Pawar said the Centre would provide additional food grains to states for distribution among 11.52 crore above poverty line (APL) families at the minimum support price. Earlier, food grains were provided at the cost price, which included MSP, freight and storage charges.
Food grain for ration has also been increased from 11 MT last year to 17 MT now for APL category.