On Wednesday evening an inter-ministerial group headed by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley reviewed the retail prices of pulses which had gone up to a record Rs 190 per kg across the country in the last few weeks.
The government has now announced series of measures including use of price stabilization fund and control imports to control prices and create a buffer stock.
Jaitley said the government will invoke the Rs 500-crore Price Stabilisation Fund that will be used to pay for transportation, handling, milling and processing fee. This, he said will help in increasing supplies and making pulses available at lower rates in the retail markets.
“We have also decided to invoke our Price Stabilisation Fund and therefore the handling charges at the port, the transportation charges, the milling and processing charges — in order to make the price of the pulses more affordable,” will be borne by the fund, he said.
The states have also been asked to lift stock of pulses lying at ports and this includes Jawaharlal Nehru Port near Mumbai.
“As far as the present stocks are concerned, we request the states which are in need to start lifting the quantity which is available,” Jaitley said.
To deal with the supply crunch, the government intends to create a buffer stock of lentils mainly through imports, Jaitley said.
“Keeping in mind that some amount of stock is available with JNPT, the group decided that we build up a buffer stock preferably by imports to take care of the problem in future,” the Finance Minister told reporters after the inter-ministerial group meeting.
“More quantity (of pulses) for the next few days will also be imported into the country so that the supply side problem can be taken care of which will have an impact on prices,” Jaitley added.
Sources to PTI have said that an extra 2,000 tonnes of pulses will be imported to curb rising prices. This will be in addition to the 5,000 tonnes lying at the ports and another 2,000 tonnes of pulses that are in transit.
The Finance Minister assured that a “considerable” amount of stock will come to the market in the next few days.
Apart from these measures, the government has also promised to check illegal hoarding of pulses and take strict action against black marketeers.
The crucial meeting on regulating prices of pulses was attended by Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu, Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari, Principal Secretary to PMO Nripendra Misra and other senior government officials.
The prices of pulses have continuously risen for the past few months due to a fall in domestic output by about 2 million tonnes (mt) in 2014-15 crop year (July-June) because of either deficit monsoon or unseasonal rains.
The retail price of ‘Tur Dal’ rose up to Rs 181 per kg, much higher than the cost of chicken. The same dal was Rs 85 per kg in October 2014, according to the data maintained by the Consumer Affairs Ministry. Similarly, the price of ‘Urad Dal’ increased to Rs 187 per kg this year, as against Rs 99 per kg last year.
(With inputs from PTI)