Competition Commission to scan agriculture, steel, paper sectors for price fixing

Perhaps prodded by the spiralling food inflation, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) has decided to more closely monitor key sectors such as agriculture, steel and paper.

The anti-trust watchdog has decided to monitor and commission studies in these areas to see if the players are indulging in unfair practices. For instance, it will focus on tracking down any "distortions and imperfections" in the distribution channel for commodities that could be leading to an escalation of prices at the retail level.

''The CCI has decided to undertake detailed studies on these sectors to ensure that there are no distortions in pricing and the end consumer is not impacted in any way,'' Dhanendra Kumar, outgoing CCI chairman, told newspersons in New Delhi on Thursday.

Kumar said that other sectors could also come under the CCI scanner. Cement is one such sector which it is already monitoring. ''In the long term, we may look into other sectors as well to ensure fair play and protect consumer interest,'' he said.

The study on the steel and paper sectors had been commissioned to Crisil.

The spurt in food prices in the recent months has brought into focus critical issues of price volatility in market structures and other dynamics for agricultural commodities. Onion prices had touched a high of R80 per kg in December 2010.