The Union Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, presented the Interim Budget in Parliament. Sources have revealed that the government has taken the initiative to sell subsidized grain through retail outlets as part of the Bharat Rice scheme. This measure has been taken to curb the steep rise in rice prices.
At present, a kilo of rice is being sold at retail outlets at a price of Rs. 50 to 60. However, the government has decided to sell rice at just Rs. 29, which will be officially announced in the next two days. This move has been taken to control the surge in rice prices in the retail market.
The Food Corporation of India (FCI) is planning to decrease the retail prices of high-consumption varieties of rice, despite the restrictions on exports and open market sales. The rising prices of rice have become a major concern for officials, who are hoping that the Bharat Rice initiative could help to reduce prices. An official stated that domestic rice prices have increased significantly, despite record production, ample stocks at FCI, and various restrictions and duties imposed on grain exports.
Currently, the government has set the price for Bharat Dal at Rs. 60 per kg, while Bharat Atta (flour) is being sold at a subsidized price of Rs. 27.5 per kg. Furthermore, the FCI has already sold 7 million tonnes of wheat to bulk buyers through the open market sale scheme from their surplus stocks.
Initially, about 0.45 million tonnes of non-fortified rice stock from FCI will be offered for retail sale by agencies including Farmers’ Cooperative Nafed, National Cooperative Consumers Federation (NCCF), and Kendriya Bhandars under Bharat Rice.
The Food Corporation of India (FCI) has only been able to sell 0.16 million tonnes (MT) of rice through weekly e-auctions since July 2023, which is significantly less than the 5 MT allocation for the current year. Despite the government’s efforts to sell surplus rice from FCI stock in the open market, retail rice prices increased by 12.33% in December, and rice prices have been on the rise since October 2022.
The government has recently prohibited the export of white rice. Additionally, last year it introduced a 20% export duty on par-boiled rice in an effort to enhance the availability of rice within the country. As of now, the Food Corporation of India (FCI) is in possession of 19.54 million tons of rice, excluding the 37 metric tons expected to be received from millers. As of January 1st, the rice stock was at 7.61 million tons, below the buffer level.