New Delhi: Prices of pulses inched close to Rs 200/kg on Thursday even as the Centre has decided to increase the buffer stock by over five times to 8 lakh tonnes for retail sale at a highly subsidised rate of Rs 120/kg.
It is yet to be seen however whether procuring more pulses for the buffer stock would help in curbing price rise at a time when not many states have evinced interest in lifting the pulses for retail distribution at a cheaper rate. As per the data maintained by the Consumer Affairs Ministry, maximum retail price of urad is ruling at Rs 196/kg, tur at Rs 166/kg, Moong at Rs 120/kg, Masoor at Rs 105/kg and gram at Rs 93/kg today. “In a significant decision, the government has decided to enhance the buffer stock of pulses from 1.5 lakh tonnes to 8 lakh tonnes,” the Food Ministry said in a release issued late night yesterday.
The decision, which is in line with the recommendation of an inter-panel set up by the ministry, was taken yesterday in a high-level meeting headed by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. The initial target was to create a buffer stock of 1.5 lakh tonnes of pulses this year. So far, 1.15 lakh tonnes has been purchased for this purpose and the same is being offloaded to states for retail distribution at a cheaper rate. The buffer stock is being created by procuring pulses directly from farmers at market prices using the Price Stabilisation Fund. The stock is being released to states for retail distribution at a subsidised rate of Rs 120 per kg.
Though the Centre is pressing states to take un-milled pulses from the buffer stock at Rs 66/kg and process it and sell in retail markets at Rs 120/kg, but not many states have shown interest. So far, over 10,000 tonnes has been released to states like Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Tamil Nadu for retail distribution even as Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan has been saying that the states too have equal responsibility in controlling prices and should take effective steps.
The buffer stock is being created through domestic procurement as well as through imports in order to address the deficit of 7.6 million tonnes of pulses. Production of pulses is estimated to have declined to 17.06 million tonnes in 2015-16 crop year (July-June) due to two consecutive years of drought, while the demand for it stands at 23.5 million tonnes.