Inter-ministerial panel to decide on supply of extra foodgrains to the poor

New Delhi: The food ministry has sent its proposal of supplying extra foodgrains to poor families for inter-ministerial deliberations before seeking the cabinet’s approval, according to a senior official. As per the proposal, 2 kg of wheat or rice will be supplied in addition to the monthly quota of 5 kg of foodgrain to 810 million poor individuals covered under the National Food Security Act (NFSA). The plan is to do it for an initial period of six months.

Meanwhile, the ministry is ready with its cabinet proposal for giving 1 kg of subsidised sugar to 190 million poor families. Currently, 1 kg of sugar is being given to 25 million ‘poorest of the poor’ Antyodaya families at a subsidised rate of Rs 13.50.

“The proposal of subsidised sugar for poor families is likely to be approved at the next cabinet meeting, while the foodgrain proposal would take some more time,” the food ministry official said. The food ministry had sent the proposal of supplying subsidised sugar for approval during the first cabinet meeting of the new government. But it was sent back to the ministry for clarity on the distribution mechanism.

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Extending subsidy of Rs 18.50 per kg of sugar to 190 million families is likely to cost the government Rs 4,727 crore. “The sugar will be given through ration shops under the targeted public distribution system – the way foodgrain is distributed. We have explained this in the cabinet note. In the previous note, the distribution system was not mentioned separately,” he said. Allocation of additional food grain is likely to ease the storage problem the government is facing due to fresh procurement. The government is likely to incur a cost of about Rs 30,000 crore through this scheme which will be separate from the food subsidy bill of Rs 1.84 lakh crore.

The government gives 5 kg of foodgrain per month to every poor individual at a highly-subsidised rate of Rs 1, 2 and 3 per kg for coarse grain, wheat and rice, respectively, besides allocating 35 kg of foodgrain per month to Antyodaya families.

“We need to evacuate godowns for fresh procurement. There has been record stock of 75 million tonnes against the storage capacity of 88 million tonnes. The subsidy cost of around Rs 30,000 crore for distribution of this additional quota is likely to subside the annual carrying cost of foodgrain, which is also in the same range. We will review the scheme after six months,” the official said.

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