Signs of milk prices firming up due a shortage in north India became evident after a state dairy ministers’ meet on Wednesday, with Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar doing a flip-flop on whether prices could rise.
Dairies in some northern states were pushing for higher milk prices due to scarcity. On this, Pawar said: “Unless there is a decision (on hiking prices), I do not know whether the states will be able to procure (milk) to meet the demand.”
Within hours of the statement, Pawar was widely quoted as saying that milk would be costlier, upsetting consumers battling a food price spiral. Later, Pawar said all he meant was that states might have to take a call on increasing prices to ensure availability.
Milk production in India, the world’s largest producer at 108 million tonnes in 2009, has been growing at an average of 4 per cent. Supply-demand forecasts for 2010 had hinted normal availability. The surprise shortage may have to do with some northern states not meeting production targets, Pawar said.
The opposition slammed Pawar for setting off panic.
“At this juncture, the government should make statements that comforts the people. Such statements justifies price rise and encourage black-marketeers,” CPI national secretary D. Raja said.
Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said food inflation was a matter of “high concern”. “The government is taking all steps to control prices,” he said.
The Congress on Wednesday said the government’s efforts to check the price should yield results soon. Party spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi, however, steered clear of a question on whether the party was satisfied with Pawar’s performance. “I will not make any such subjective comment,” he said.
“The government is trying but we will like to see momentum in the efforts and above all, results should come fast,” Singhvi said.