Centre to offload some of pulses buffer stock

The government has decided to dispose off 0.55 million tonnes of pulses from its buffer stock of around 1.8 mt, at lower rates, to five states and for central welfare schemes such as the mid-day meal programme.

It is also willing to work with them to evolve a system for real-time updating of the list of beneficiaries covered under the National Food Security Act (NFSA).

Such automatic updating would enable the Centre to address concerns over addition or substraction of beneficiary names from the Public Distribution Scheme (PDS) list due to change of address, marriage or death, a complaint it repeatedly faced during its recent nationwide social audit of NFSA.

Last year, the government decided to create a buffer stock of pulses, to ensure better prices for farmers and to augment supply in times of price rise. About two mt was got via both local buying and import.

Of this buffer (now 1.8 mt), about 350,000 tonnes will be given at a lower rate to Karnataka, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, said Ram Vilas Paswan, the food minister.

Another 200,000 tonnes will be given for consumption under various central welfare schemes, for which a cabinet nod will be taken soon, he added.

The minister said some quantity is already being sold in the open market via auction. About 200,000 tonnes have been sold via auction so far. Paswan added a substantial quantity will be sold immediately other than the auction mode, to reduce the carrying cost.

"If at least 10 lakh (one million) tonnes is cleared from our stocks, we will be able to manage with the other 10 lakh tonnes easily. We will clear older stocks first," consumer affairs secretary Avinash Srivastav told news agency PTI.

Last year, the government initially bought at the market price. When the crop became a bumper one and prices crashed, it started procuring at its Minimum Support Price. Most prices of pulses in retail markets are lower than this. There was a record 22.95 mt in the 2016-17 crop year (July-June), buoyed by good rain and a higher support price.

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