Govt. announces steps to curb prices as opposition mounts pressure

New Delhi, January 13, 2010

Faced with a mounting attack from the Opposition, the Government today announced a slew of measures to curb the rising prices of food articles and expressed confidence that the prices would start falling within 8-10 days.

Among the moves announced after a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Prices chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar told journalists the duty-free import of white sugar would be allowed till the end of December this year.

He also announced a relaxation in the Central Excise norms to allow mills, which had imported raw sugar, to process it in any state.

This would address the concerns of several sugar mills in Uttar Pradesh which had imported huge quantities of raw sugar but could not process them in the state because the state government had not given them permission to do so. Under the existing provisions, processing the raw sugar would have entailed payment of excise duties.

The sugar mills in UP had not been able to lift about nine lakh tonnes of raw sugar which are still lying in the Kandla and Mundra ports in Gujarat.

Mr Pawar also said the Centre would sell 2-3 million tonnes of wheat and rice in the open market over the next two months. He said the State Trading Corporation and MMTC would be asked to intensify imports of pulses to arrest the rising domestic prices.

Food inflation is currently around 19 per cent and the rising prices are becoming a matter of serious concern for common folk around the country.

Mr Pawar urged states to take strict action against hoarders and blackmarketeers and also advised them to withdraw value added tax and other taxes imposed on imported sugar. He also asked the states to lift the full quantity of wheat, rice and other items allocated to them by the Centre so that people got full advantage of low prices.

The Minister said NAFED and the National Consumer Cooperative Federation (NCCF) would be authorised to distribute subsidised imported edible oil in states which are not implementing the subsidy scheme.

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