Rice to cost more, warns Pawar

agriculture minister Sharad PawarEven while claiming that the country has ample buffer stocks of rice, agriculture minister Sharad Pawar warned on Thursday that the retail prices of rice could go up soon due to the poor monsoon, due to which there has been a shortfall of 6.1 million hectares in paddy sowing.

"There is a gap (in sowing) and the impact of drought is also there. So when there is an impact of drought, it will have some effect on the prices. We have to find out ways to get out of this situation," Pawar said.

Prices of rice are already about 14 per cent higher than they were last year. Other commodities like pulses and sugar have also shot up, and Pawar has warned earlier that imports could further push up prices.

Moreover, he said the government is giving ''serious thought'' to demands of certain rice-producing states to provide bonus on paddy over and above the current support prices of Rs 950 and Rs 980 a quintal for the common and Grade A varieties, which could further push up prices.

He however dismissed the possibility of supply shortages. "Fortunately, last year's production was good. So, the position of our stocks is okay. We have sufficient stock, but we will have to work towards increasing the production here," Pawar said on the sidelines of the annual National Conference on Agriculture for Rabi Campaign.

The minister said there were plans to improve sowing for the forthcoming rabi season, with more oilseeds and pulses to help cover up some of the shortfall in foodgrain production.