Finance minister Arun Jaitley today said the country has enough food stocks and there was no need to panic even as he promised stern action against hoarders and black marketers who disrupt supplies.
Addressing state food ministers in the capital today, Jaitley said prices of essentials have to be controlled before they spiral out of hand as it would hurt the poor. However, he said, as things stand, there was nothing to worry about.
"It is not an issue of scarcity but it is an issue of supply side. These commodities are available in sufficient amount but the normal supply is disrupted by hoarders anticipating higher prices," the minister said.
The centre, which had in past few days imposed minimum export price and stock limits on onions and potatoes, today indicated it was willing to consider suggestions for making hoarding of essential commodities a non-bailable offence.
The centre had, over the last few weeks, allocated an additional 5 million tonnes of rice for poor for improving supplies of foodgrains.
"One thing is clear that there is no panic situation. Whatever feedback we have got from state ministers is that there is no need for panic," Jaitley said after the meeting.
Stating that prices of vegetables and pulses generally rise in July, he said this time there is an abnormal increase in prices of 2-3 commodities but "there is no panic situation."
The finance minister also allayed fears of the impact of a delayed monsoon on prices. "Monsoon has just started, it is a late start and it is too early to create any panic," he said.
Jaitley said some states have suggested strengthening of the Essential Commodities Act and making hoarding a non-bailable offence, adding that the government will take a view on the suggestions of making hoarding a non-bailable offence.
Food inflation rose to 9.5 per cent in May, while the WPI inflation was at a five-month high of 6.01 per cent.