Odishatv Bureau

Cuttack: With talks on exemption of value added tax (VAT) on food items like wheat products and pulses between the State government and the traders yielding no results, import of these essential commodities was stopped by the traders from today raising concerns of a price rise.

Import of all pulses, rava, flour, maida, oil, and rice has been halted by the traders.

Though the effect of the import halt was not seen on the first day, there is an increased likelihood of increase in prices of essential commodities if the traders continue their strike for long.

“Prices are definitely going to rise and will affect us consumers. As supplies dry out, there will be shortage and we want the government to step in,” said PK Naik, a consumer.

Currently, Odisha imports around 2500-2600 metric tonnes (MTs) worth of pulses daily, along with 3000-3500 MTs of wheat-based items, 2500 MTs sugar, and 2000 MTs edible oil. According to the traders' federation, the current stock of these items will last for a week.

Notably, traders had threatened to stop the import of these essential commodities pulses from other states from April 1 protesting against the five per cent value added tax (VAT) imposed on pulses, wheat and wheat products by the state government.

As many as 25 states have exempted VAT on pulses, wheat and wheat products, they had argued.

“We have stopped importing all pulses, sugar, oil, rice etc. The support and response to our call only goes to prove the injustice on the part of the Odisha government,” said Sudhakar Panda, secretary of the Federation of All Odisha Traders’ Association (FAOTA).

“Our demands are justified and we discussed with the government and also submitted a written plea on the same,” said Prafulla Chattoi, the joint-secretary of the Malgodown traders’ association.

On the other hand, the Odisha government on Thursday decided to procure essential commodities through e-marketing while urging the traders to call off their agitation.

“To tackle the situation, we have decided to begin talks with National e-marketing Ltd. for procurement of pulses. We hope it will yield the desired result,” Food and Civil Supplies minister Sanjay Dasburma told reporters here after holding a meeting with top officials at the Secretariat.

The minister also informed that a Task Force had been formed to review the situation on a daily basis.