Govt to regulate pvt retail chains to rein in high food prices

Thiruvananthapuram: The Centre now plans to regulate private retail chains to ensure they did not make undue profit, Union Minister of State for Food and Civil Supplies K V Thomas said on Saturday.

"We are not against private retail chains, but will not allow them to make undue profit. State Governments had been advised on this," he told reporters here.

He said studies on recent increase in the prices of onion had suggested that private retail chains were making "excess profits", as they had facilities to store perishable goods in large quantities.

It was also planned to review the Essential Commodities Act as suggested by many state governments, he said.

Stressing that curbing escalation in foodgrains` price was one of the Central government`s main aims, Thomas said the UPA Government was working out modalities to supply more essential commodities through the Public Distribution System (PDS).

Four zonal-level meetings of state food ministers will be held to include the state governments` suggestions on the matter, Thomas said.

The first such meeting would be held here on February 3, followed by meetings in Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai on February 7, February 14 and February 17 respectively, he said.

Centre has also planned to devise a system to supply even perishable items through PDS in metropolitan cities, Thomas said, adding that the first such system would be put in place in Delhi.

He said another priority area was the implemention of National Food Security Act. It would be implemented once the schemes under the Act were approved by the National Advisory Council and Cabinet.

It had also been decided to intervene in open market with the help of NAFED (National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India) and NCCF (National Cooperative Consumers` Federation of India Limited) whenever necessary to check price rise, he said.

Thomas blamed the flood in Nasik (Maharashtra) for the recent spurt in onion prices. With the intervention of Centre, the price of onion has started dropping, he said, adding the effort was to bring the price level to Rs 22 per kg.

He said the Centre also has plans to increase its foodgrains` storage capacity to 1.7 lakh tonnes under Private Public Participation mode. A discussion would be held with the representatives of trade and business.

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