Ahead of polls, govt to sell Bharat brand subsidised staples | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

Ahead of polls, govt to sell Bharat brand subsidised staples

Dec 29, 2023 12:43 AM IST

Centre is planning to scale up output and sales of basic commodities, such as Bharat Atta and Bharat Dal, its subsidised brand of wheat flour and lentils

The Union government is planning to scale up output and sales of basic commodities, such as Bharat Atta and Bharat Dal, its subsidised brand of wheat flour and lentils, for the public ahead of the general elections next year as well as pump more state-owned cereals into the open market to cool food prices, a person familiar with the development said.

 The Bharat Atta and Bharat Dal brand
The Bharat Atta and Bharat Dal brand

An interministerial group for inflation management has given its nod to divert over 400,000 tonne of additional wheat for the government’s Bharat Atta brand, available in cooperative stores across the country. The interministerial group has also given its go-ahead to release an additional 2.5 million tonne of wheat for its open-market sales auctions to ease prices, the person cited above said.

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The government may offer a third staple, rice, at a subsidy to all consumers through cooperative stores or restrict the amount of the grain traders can stock at any given time to boost supplies. Both measures are being considered, the person said.

Consumer prices rose by 5.55% in November, driven by food items, snapping a three-month decline, according to official data. Cereal prices stayed in the double digits at 10.27%, while pulses, a key source of protein for most Indians, went up 20.23%.

Higher food inflation impacts poorer households relatively more than the well-off since the former tend to spend a larger share of their of the monthly income on food.

Separately, consumer affairs secretary Rohit Kumar Singh said an “enhanced retail network through mobile vans of NAFED, NCCF and state-controlled cooperative scores offers increased convenience for common consumers” in accessing the Bharat Atta and Bharat Dal brand.

In an attempt to showcase its fight against inflation, which has become entrenched in a handful of items such as cereals and pulses, the government branded its subsidised wheat as Bharat Atta with a distinct labelling and style. It is also selling cheap pulses under a similar brand.

India is vulnerable to food-price shocks from extreme weather events and global factors despite a recent moderation in prices, Reserve Bank of India governor Shaktikanta Das had warned last month. The governor said there were continuing risks of “recurrent and overlapping” food-price spirals.

The Union government launched the packaged wheat flour brand last month, which can be bought by all classes of consumers. Besides, the government also offers free cereals of 5 kg a month per person to nearly 800 million eligible beneficiaries under the National Food Security Act.

The Bharat Atta plan involves releasing quarter of a million tonne of state-owned wheat to Kendriya Bhandar, a network of state-owned cooperative general stores, and the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation (NAFED) and the National Cooperative Consumers’ Federation (NCCF).

These agencies will sell wheat flour, branded Bharat Atta, at a discounted price of 27.50 a kg, against a market price of 32-34 a kg. Unbranded wheat flour sold through Kendriya Bhandar was earlier priced at 29.50. Lentils, such as yellow peas, under the Bharat Dal brand is available up to 50% cheaper at 60 a kg.

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    Zia Haq reports on public policy, economy and agriculture. Particularly interested in development economics and growth theories.

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