No shortage of foodgrains for PDS and welfare schemes: Pawar

No shortage of foodgrains for PDS and welfare schemes: Pawar

Sharad Pawar

As per the current stock position, availability of wheat stands at 300 lakh tonnes against the buffer norm of 162 lakh tonnes, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar informed the Lok Sabha during Question Hour.

Similarly, rice stock is 172.11 lakh tonnes while buffer norm is 52 lakh tonnes, the minister said.

"There is no shortage of foodgrains for the PDS as well as for other welfare schemes like Mid-Day meal. Ample rice and wheat is available. This was possible because of very good crop last year," he said.

But, the real worry is about open market availability. As the paddy crop has been less by 15 million tonnes this year so far as 299 districts went without water due to no rainfall and to ensure that prices remain under control, the government has taken several measures including banning export and liberalising imports of foodgrains.

The Centre has also provided special incentives to the tune of Rs 1,000 crore to states like Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar in terms of additional diesel and power subsidy to enhance rice production during the Rabi crop season.

Pawar said more than 53 lakh hectares under paddy cultivation was affected due to shortfall in rains this year and this resulted in less rice production.

Central teams have visited drought affected states and based on their recommendations, the government has approved a total assistance of Rs 4,073.78 crore from the National Calamity Contingency Fund (NCCF) so far and also released Rs 1990.33 crore to these states as the central government share under Calamity Relief Fund (CRF).

The minister said several steps have been taken to maximise procurement of wheat and rice including wheat export on private account has been banned from February, 2007 till further orders.

Similarly in case of rice, Pawar said, export of basmati rice has been banned with effect from April, 2008. Export of basmati rice is allowed only at Minimum Export Price of USD 900 per metric tonne.

The government has also increased the area under Rabi cultivation to compensate for likely loss in Kharif and has increased the upper ceiling of distribution subsidy on certified seeds for the farmers.

All these steps are being taken to ensure enough availability of foodgrains in the open market to keep prices under control.