NEW DELHI: India plans to import 1.5 million tonnes of pulses and procure adequate wheat from farmers to boost supplies and moderate prices of food items, a minister said on 12 April.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Priyaranjan Dasmunsi told reporters the Union Cabinet had approved a scheme for importing pulses through state-run agencies after reviewing the price situation.
In 2006, India was forced to import wheat heavily after government purchases fell far short of target. It also allowed duty free imports of pulses to help stem prices.
Still, annual inflation climbed to a two-year high in February and has remained well above 6%.
Dasmunsi said the cabinet had not taken any decision to cut customs duties on edible oils, whose prices have been showing a rising trend in recent weeks.
Media reports said the cabinet might consider duty cuts on palm and soy oils whose prices have been spiralling on the global market.
India, a leading buyer of these oils, are set to step up imports this year with domestic oilseeds output expected to fall.
“The cabinet approved that NAFED, STC and MMTC will formulate market wise and product wise import of 1.5 million tonnes of pulses,” Dasmunsi said.
The government will subsidise the firms for selling the pulses at concessional rates in the domestic market, he said.
Dasmunsi said the government was confident that state-owned Food Corporation of India would procure the targeted 15 million tonnes of wheat from farmers to boost supplies and help check inflation.
State agencies have procured up to 94% of wheat arrivals from the market in Haryana this month and about 85% in Punjab, Minister of State for Food and Public Distribution Akhilesh Prasad Singh said in a ministry statement.
The total procurement in Haryana till April 11 is 426,538 tonnes against market arrivals of 452,120 tonnes. In Punjab, the total procurement is 234,621 tonnes against the market arrival of 275,289 tonnes, it said.
This dispels the notion that private parties were able to procure the largest chunk of market arrivals, the ministry said.