India has adequate food stocks to make up a shortfall in output this year and will step up efforts to mitigate distress of farmers hit by deficient monsoon rains, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Wednesday.
"We had record production and procurement of foodgrains in both 2007/08 and 2008/09. We thus have adequate food stocks and there is no cause for concern or fear of shortages of foodgrains in the country as a whole," the PM told a conference.
The Congress party-led coalition government, which was re-elected this year on the back of its pro-farmer policies, is under pressure after food prices surged following the worst dry spell in nearly four decades.
Monsoon rainfall, a lifeline to India's $1 trillion plus economy, were a fifth below normal between June and September 7, but a top weather department official forecast it to narrow to 15-18 per cent by the end of this season.
"We have to recognise that most areas of the country will probably still have deficient rainfall and therefore we have to redouble our efforts to mitigate rural distress arising from the after effects of drought," Singh said.
He said the rural job scheme needs to be implemented at a faster pace across the nation, as it would act as a "safety net" for farmers whose crops failed.
Last week, the Planning Commission forecast foodgrain output to be lower by 18 million tonnes in 2009/10, and this could propel the annual inflation rate beyond the comfort zone of 4-5 percent by end March.
The widely watched wholesale price index was down 0.21 per cent in the 12 months to Aug. 22, distorted by the base effect of last year's high energy prices and suppressing the rise in food prices.
On Monday, the central bank governor said inflation was becoming a concern sooner than anticipated and the current monetary stance must be unwound, sending bond yields higher.