PM-led meeting on price rise ends inconclusively

PM Manmohan Singh during a high level meeting on food inflation in New Delhi on Tuesday.
NEW Delhi, January 11 (Agencies): A high level meeting convened by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to discuss ways to tackle food inflation, particularly the zooming prices of onion, essential vegetables and milk, remained “inconclusive’’, according to official sources. The meeting, lasting one-and-a-half hours, was attended among others by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Agriculture and Food Minister Sharad Pawar, Home Minister P. Chidambaram and Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Cabinet Secretary K.M. Chandrasekhar and Economic Adviser to Finance Minister, Kaushik Basu.
The government got worried when food inflation rose to 18.32 per cent for the week ending December 25, on account of rise in prices of food items including onion, milk and meat. The retail price of onion remains at an unusual high of Rs. 55 to Rs. 60 per kilogram due to shortage in supply, despite government outlets selling the commodity at Rs. 35 per kg. On the agenda were the proposed 40 per cent hike in the issue price of wheat and rice for the Above Poverty Line that has been approved by the government, but kept in abeyance. The decision to allow sugar mills to export 5 lakh tonnes of sugar even as sugar prices have started rising in the retail market was also scheduled to be discussed.
Also on the agenda were the recommendations of the experts group, chaired by C. Rangarajan, on the suggestions of the National Advisory Council on the proposed food security bill. The Rangarajan panel has suggested that the Above Poverty Line category of people be kept of out mandatory entitlement looking to the current levels of foodgrains procurement and production. The experts group report is yet to be officially conveyed to the NAC, that met here on Monday. Sources said the meeting would be resumed either on Tuesday or Wednesday.