Poor monsoon hits cheap rice scheme

Sources in the Food Ministry told Deccan Herald that the scheme was likely to be delayed by several months. Also, the Centre is worried over the shortfall in food grain production. The UPA had promised to implement the scheme within 100 days of assuming power. It had also promised to bring in a National Food Security Act (NFSA) for the purpose.

The delay is on account of the prevailing drought situation in as many as 246 districts due to the shortfall in rain.

The government had earlier announced that rice production would see a shortfall of 10 million tonnes in the current kharif season with a shortfall in paddy sowing in 5.7 million hectares.

Food basket full

At present the country’s food basket is full, thanks to the bumper crop last year. It has 14.1 million tonnes of rice as against 7.2 million tonnes of buffer stock, and wheat stock stands at 15 million tonnes as against the requirement of 7 million tonnes.

Though the Food Ministry officials admit that the current stock is enough to fulfill its commitment under welfare programmes such as the public distribution system (PDS), mid-day meal and other schemes up to 13 months, they are not certain about the course of action after that period.

As the Centre has promised to distribute cheap rice, it has taken cautious steps to ensure it has sufficient food stock before launching the scheme, sources say.
BPL families

Meanwhile, the confusion over the number of BPL families in the country still remains unresolved. Food and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, who chaired a meeting of state food and civil supplies ministers here on Wednesday, is learnt to have said that the Centre would discuss the issue at the National Development Council meeting, which is likely to be held in January.

At Wednesday’s meeting, the government held that the number of BPL families in the country was 10.26 crore, while states claimed it was 14.57 crore.

Several states have also demanded an increase in the quantity of rice for BPL families from 25 to 35 kg per family at Rs 2.

As the meeting failed to evolve a consensus, Pawar said he would take up the matter with the National Development Council, which is the highest body to discuss contentious issues.

DH News Service

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