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Food inflation under control in India due to govt’s timely steps, says F&PD Secretary.

Date: 27-05-2022
Subject: Food inflation under control in India due to govt’s timely steps, says F&PD Secretary
Sudhanshu Pandey, Secretary, Department of Food & Public Distribution (F&PD) talks to ET Now about food inflation, how India is faring vis-a-vis rest of the world and the steps the government has taken to combat that.

Has the food inflation peaked out or is there more to come?

Food inflation, compared with many other countries, is very much under control in India. India is still better placed as far as prices of cereals including edible oil prices are concerned vis-à-vis many countries. This is primarily because of very timely steps that the government took including the rationalisation of import duty in case of edible oils as well as ensuring availability, putting stock limits on certain items.

Though these are not normal steps that any government would like to take, the overall situation – which is Covid globally followed by geopolitical tensions – led to disruption of supply line production in various countries. The Government of India has taken a number of steps which have been able to help contain food inflation in particular.

It is not just the geopolitical crisis but also the unprecedented heat wave which is impacting the agri output. Minister Piyush Goyal on May 24 said in Davos that wheat production could dip by 8% and there is already a tilt towards rice when it comes to distribution. Are our buffer stocks intact?

One thing to be kept in mind is that even for wheat, there is no complete ban on exports. It is a regulation which has been introduced to ensure availability of wheat within the country in reasonable quantities because it is one crop a year. The next crop will come only in April, May next year. Till then, the country has to feed the entire population.

The impact of climate change due to heat waves is clearly visible in the reduced production but this is not only the case in India. In many countries, heat waves have affected production of wheat and therefore the government had to take certain steps. But it has still kept the window open for supplies to countries which are vulnerable from the point of view of food security.

In terms of buffer stocks, we have ensured that buffer stocks of wheat and rice are above requirements. We had to do some rationalisation in the distribution ratio immediately after the mandi procurement got reduced and now we are in a comfortable position.

In a press conference nearly 24 hours ago, you clarified that the measures that have been taken for sugar is not banning exports but just capping exports. Sugar production is at an all time high and we have overtaken Brazil. If we were to look at the measures announced for sugar as well as wheat, what will be the impact on the retail price? How will it benefit the consumers?

One thing is very clear: the availability of stocks within the country is as important as export commitment. If you compare the situation with 2016-17, this year the projected export of sugar is going to be almost 200 times more and this is something which is unprecedented but has been possible because of highest ever production of sugarcane and this year we have in fact gone ahead of Brazil in terms of production.

Our production is likely to be a little over 39 million tonnes. Therefore our exports are also highest ever projected to be in the range of about 10 million tonne and after catering for the highest ever exports, we still need about two-and-a-half to three months requirement from September onwards because at that time, new sugar season does not start and the previous stocks are on the verge of being exhausted.

Therefore we need about 60 to 62 lakh metric tonne sugar in domestic stocks to cater for two-and-a-half months supplies within the country and this is going to keep the prices under check.

Source Name:-Economic Times

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