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Ministries plan coordinated response to food inflation

business Updated: Oct 31, 2011 22:59 IST
Zia Haq
Zia Haq
Hindustan Times
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Thee key ministries - finance, food and agriculture - will hold discussions on curbing runaway food prices and finding avenues to improve supplies, after concerns expressed by the ruling United Progressive Alliance's chairperson, Sonia Gandhi.

Gandhi is understood to have called for coordinated inter-ministerial efforts and emergency steps to halt prices of primary food articles. She is also reviewing monthly consumer-prices reports from the consumer affairs ministry.

A slew of monetary and administrative steps have failed to cool food prices in Asia's third-largest economy, which rose 11.43% for the week ended October 15, the sharpest rise in six months. Indians are currently paying the highest food prices in a decade, which have caused household incomes to shrink.

The government could galvanise India's main agricultural co-operative federations to jack up supplies in response to higher demand for food articles.

Thomas told HT that the government might have to bring fresh amendments to the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee Act. An innovative legislation originally designed to protect farmers from exploitative traders, the APMC Act - implemented as a national model in the 70s - is now being blamed for rising vegetable prices. Most APMCs are thought to harbour monopolistic practices.

In January this year, the main co-operatives were pressed into action to cool onion prices, which had shot up to Rs 80 per kg on the back of crop losses.

The co-operatives could be asked to sell additional items, including vegetables, at affordable rates.