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India will import one million tonnes of potatoes by 31 January as the government announced on Friday steps to curb rising prices of pulses to tame galloping retail inflation.

Trade and consumer affairs minister Piyush Goyal said the import duty on potatoes has been cut from 30% to 10% for fresh imports, including 30,000 tonnes from Bhutan for which importers do not require any licence. The retail price of potato has been hovering at above 40 per kilogram in most states across India.

For pulses, Goyal said the time limit for importing 400,000 tonnes of tur this fiscal has been extended till 31 December while the import of uradunder the already-issued import quota of 150,0000 has been expedited.

The government is also supplying moong, tur and urad to states from its buffer stocks in a retail intervention to reduce prices. Goyal said that over the next 15 days, 200,000 tonnes of tur from the buffer stock will be disposed through open market sale. The government has also decided to extend the memorandum of understanding with Mozambique for import of 200,000 tonnes of tur for another five years and is in the process of signing a pact with Myanmar for five years to import 250,000 tonne of urad.

To curb spiralling prices of onions, the government banned its exports on 14 September while easing import norms from 21 October. However, it subsequently partially lifted the blanket ban on exports allowing shipments of export of Bangalore rose onions and Krishnapuram onions up to 10,000 metric tonnes.

Goyal said while 7,000 tonnes of onions have already arrived, another 25,000 tonnes will arrive before Diwali. The government has also invoked Essential Commodities Act setting onion stock limits at 25 tonnes for wholesalers and 2 tonnes for retailers from 23 October.

Though retail inflation has remained stubbornly high well above the Reserve Bank of India’s comfort level, it has retained an accommodative stance, terming it as a transient worry. “One year ahead inflation expectations of households suggest some softening in inflation from three months ahead levels. Selling prices of firms remain muted, reflecting the weak demand conditions," RBI said in its latest monetary policy review.

India’s retail inflation accelerated to a four-month high at 7.34% in September, remaining well above RBI’s targeted range for the sixth straight month, as food prices rose.

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