Centre asks states to restrain prices, review APMC Acts

In a bid to ensure adequate availability of pulses, edible oils, and other essential food items at reasonable prices, the government has urged states to remove all local taxes on essential food items.

In a letter written to the Chief Secretaries of states, Union Consumer Affairs Secretary Hem Pande has asked them to take up market intervention on a real-time basis and to review Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) Acts on priority to delist pulses and other essential food items. This will enable farmers to sell their produce at any place of their choice, minimizing stages of the supply chain from the farm gate to ultimate consumers, said an official press release.

It will ensure reasonable prices for consumers and also fetch better prices for farmers. The Consumer Affairs Secretary has drawn states’ attention towards the action plan adopted for this purpose in the state food ministers meeting held in May this year.

States have also been requested to consider a pricing policy for pulses and such other essential food items under Section 3(2) (c) of the EC Act and to make it enforceable for all the stake holders to cap the prices of essential commodities.

The Secretary has also asked states to implement the Price Stabilization Fund Scheme for market intervention to enhance availability and check prices of essential. For successful functioning of the scheme, adequate and timely lifting of pulses from buffer stock is a prerequisite, besides strengthening storage facilities for pulses, vegetables edible oils seeds, and onions, he has said

States have also been requested to keep a close watch on the hoarding and black marketing of essential commodities in view of the coming festival season. Apart from regular raids, strict action should be taken against the habitual violators and speculators under the EC Act and PBMMSEC Act which provides for preventive detention up to six months. States may also consider creation of a dedicated Force under the EC Act, on the lines of Tamil Nadu Civil Supplies Crime Investigation Department, for effective operations against hoarders, black-marketeers, profiteers, and unscrupulous traders/speculators of essential commodities.

States have also been asked to create a robust information management system of prices, production, availability, unscrupulous trading, hoarding, black marketing, and to strengthen price monitoring cells to have the ground-zero information available on daily basis and sharing it with all the enforcement agencies of Central and state governments. A monthly report on enforcement actions under the EC Act and the Prevention of Black Marketing & Maintenance of Supplies of Essential Commodities Act is mandatory to ensure regular review of the same at highest level.