Under attack over the rise in prices, the Indian government on Wednesday took a slew of measures to increase availability of sugar, pulses and other commodities and hoped rates of the sweetener, being sold at nearly Rs50 a kg, would start declining in a week's time, reports PTI.
To increase the availability of sugar, the government relaxed the norms for processing of raw sugar and allowed duty-free import of white sugar till December-end.
A host of decisions, including selling of two-three million tonnes of wheat and rice in the open market over the next two months and asking state-owned trading firms to intensify import of pulses, was taken at a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Prices chaired by prime minister Manmohan Singh.
Food & agriculture minister Sharad Pawar told reporters that the prime minister would convene a chief ministers' meeting in the last week of this month to discuss the price situation and take stern action against hoarders.
These steps, Mr Pawar said, "would definitely impact the price situation. Prices would come down in four to eight days."
The government has come under intense criticism from all parties, including UPA partner Trinamool Congress, for rising food inflation, which soared to a decade's high of about 20% in December.
Mr Pawar said as the Uttar Pradesh (UP) government has not allowed processing of imported raw sugar, the Union government has relaxed the Central excise duty rules enabling mills to carry out refining elsewhere.
Nearly nine lakh tonnes of imported raw sugar are lying at Kandla and Mundra ports following the restrictions imposed by the UP government in November 2009.
This apart, several state governments have been advised not to impose value added tax (VAT) on imported sugar. They have also been asked to take stringent measures to check hoarding and black-marketing.
The Union government may increase the subsidy on imported edible oil from the prevailing rate of Rs15 a kg. The subsidy scheme for public distribution of imported edible oil under the states will continue till 31 October 2010. It was to earlier supposed to lapse on 31st March.
Cooperative major National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation (NAFED) and the National Consumer Cooperative Federation (NCCF) will be authorised to distribute subsidised imported oil and pulses in states that are not implementing the scheme.