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Prices of essential commodities coming down, says Pawar
New Delhi, Mar 18 (IANS) :
Published on 18 Mar. 2010 11:53 PM IST
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Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar Thursday said prices of essential commodities, including sugar, were coming down. “The situation is definitely changing and it is a good sign,” Pawar told reporters here after inaugurating the National Conference for Kharif Campaign that is aimed at improving productivity during the upcoming sowing season.
Pawar, who has been criticised by elements within the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and outside for his ministry’s “bad handling” of the price situation, said he was not an economist so he could not say why the annual rate of inflation, based on the wholesale price index, was going up.
“I am not an economist. I am a farmer. I don’t understand (why the rate of inflation is going up),” he said.
Driven by increasing food prices, India’s annual rate of inflation, based on the wholesale price index, rose to 9.89 percent in February from 8.56 percent the previous month. The UPA government has been under attack from the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party and the Left parties over the galloping prices of essential commodities over the past few months.
Asked about the accusations against him from within the ruling coalition on the issue, Pawar said: “I have to accept that.”
Ruling out the export of surplus wheat lying in warehouses, he said: “There is no question of allowing wheat export. My ministry has proposed to allocate more wheat to the APL (above poverty line) families.”
Pawar said he had planned to take up the issue at the empowered group of ministers (EGoM) meeting scheduled for Thursday. “But it has been postponed.”
Admitting there was inadequate storage capacity, he said this was a big problem.
The minister also asked the state governments to improve the data collection system on crop conditions.
He said the prices of the sugar shot up because the states provided insufficient data to the centre on sugarcane production.
Now the states, following the instruction given by the agriculture ministry, had done a realistic assessment of production, showing it to be very high, Pawar said. “The international market has also realised that India’s sugarcane production is improving. So, international prices of sugar are coming down,” he added. The minister asked the state governments to strengthen the public distribution system to contain the price rise.

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