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'Food Bill impossible without raising agri output'

Food and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar on Friday said it would not be possible to implement the proposed National Food Security bill without increasing the country's agriculture production substantially.

delhi Updated: Dec 03, 2010 21:46 IST

Food and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar on Friday said it would not be possible to implement the proposed National Food Security bill without increasing the country's agriculture production substantially.

"If we have to honour the announcement of the President (to bring a new food security law), our requirement will be more than 65 million tonnes. Unless and until, production and productivity has improved, it will not be possible to provide this kind of foodgrains," Pawar said at the conference in New Delhi.

The foodgrains requirement of over 65 million tonnes is based on the recommendation of the Sonia-Gandhi headed National Advisory Council (NAC) on the proposed bill, under which the President had announced that the government will provide 25 kg of rice or wheat a month to poor at Rs 3 per kg.

The requirement of foodgrains is higher than the government's total procurement of 50-56 million tonnes in last two years, the minister said.

"If we have to procure 65 million tonnes from the open market, we have to see that production has been substantially increased," Pawar noted.

According to official estimates, the country's foodgrains production stood at 218.20 million tonnes in 2009-10 crop year. While this year, the government has kept a target of 244.50 million tonnes.

Meanwhile, NAC has made suggestions on the number of beneficiaries to be covered under the proposed bill and it is being examined by the expert panel constituted by the Prime Minister Office.

NAC has suggested the government to grant a legal entitlement to subsidised foodgrains to at least 75 per cent of the country's population under the proposed Bill through a reformed PDS system from the next financial year.

It has suggested the government to provide 35 kg of foodgrains a month to priority households at a subsidised rate of Rs 1 per kg for millets, Rs 2 for wheat and Rs 3 for rice.

For the general category, the NAC has suggested supplying 20 kg of foodgrains at a price not exceeding 50 per cent of the current support price, which comes to Rs 5.50 for wheat and Rs 7.70 per kg for rice.

At present, the government provides cheap foodgrains to 18.04 crore families, which includes 6.52 BPL families and 11.5 APL families, under the Public Distribution System (PDS). Offtake under the PDS in the last fiscal was 42.4 million tonnes.