Refusing to take the blame for the sky-rocketting food prices, union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar Friday had some sweet news to share. He said sugar would soon become cheaper and abundant in India - so much so that the country will have a storage problem.
"One hundred percent," Pawar said when asked if sugar prices would go down this fiscal.
"And in 2011 the problem which the government will have to deal with is, what to do with so much sugar and where to store it," Pawar told CNN-IBN news channel in an interview.
The upward price surge of sugar would be over in 2011, he said.
But on a pessimistic note, the minister said that prices of edible oil and pulses were unlikely to come down because the country would have to depend on the import of both these items for at least the next 10 years.
"Pulses we have to import, edible oil we have to import. And we will have to import these items for the next 10 years or so because day by day the demand is growing, purchasing power of the weaker sections is also increasing especially after so much spending on NREGA, the employment guarantee programme," he said.
He, however, refused to take the blame for the price fiasco, saying the food inflation was because demand was outpacing growth.
Opposition parties led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have been targeting the government over the soaring prices of wheat, rice, cereals, pulses, sugar and vegetables.
They want the government to formulate a comprehensive food pricing and management policy to provide relief to the common people from inflation that has hit hard not just those below poverty line (BPL) but almost the entire middle class.
On his difference of opinion on sugar prices with Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati, Pawar said he has personally written to her inviting her to a meeting. "I have written a letter to all chief ministers. I have sent a personal letter to Mayawati asking her to attend the chief ministers' conclave on food prices in early February."
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is to convene the meeting with chief ministers in February.
Pawar is of the opinion to review the subsidy policy that gives families living above poverty line (APL) the same amount of food grain from the public distribution shops as to BPL families.
The agriculture minister said the media had played up his statement adversely affecting the prices.
"You see this type of making statement is unnecessarily creating problems for prices and that availability also. Generally, that's why I don't speak because these statements are given disproportionate publicity and it affects prices. India is a different kind of country. These statements have an effect on international prices."