THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The state government will soon sign an agreement with the Andhra Pradesh Civil Supplies Corporation to import rice at “lower than ever” prices. This was announced by food and civil supplies minister P. Thilothaman while replying to an adjournment motion moved by Muslim League MLA T. V. Ibrahim on rising prices of essential commodities in the Assembly on Wednesday. While opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala insisted on the specifics of the Andhra rice deal - like the date of signing, the price of imported rice and the quantity - the minister said such details were in the process of being firmed up.
Later, the opposition staged a walkout in the Assembly in protest against what they termed the government inability to control galloping prices. “If the prices are reigning high at this point, it is frightening to think where it will reach during the coming Onam and Bakrid season,” Mr Chennithala said.
Mr Thilothaman insisted that prices were in control. “There was a marginal increase in the price of rice during May, June and July,” the minister said. “The prices were especially high for the ‘Jaya’ variety that comes from Andhra. This was why we met Andhra leaders, and held discussions with their Civil Supplies Corporation. The objective was to do away with middlemen,” he added.
However, according to the minister, prices have already cooled. “The lowest quote Supplyco received recently for rice was `34,” the minister said. Here is how T. V. Ibrahim countered the claim: “The market rate of Surekha rice today (Wednesday) morning was `40. If you can sell me rice at Rs 34, it would be great as I could sell this rice at a profit in the market.”
The minister then reeled out names of pulses and vegetables and their market prices to demonstrate that prices were on a downward curve. Ibrahim then quoted from the latest price list of Horticorp to show that the actual prices were at least Rs 10 a kg more than what the minister had claimed. He said that the minister was referring to Supplyco’s subsidised prices while the reality was different.
The minister, however, conceded that the prices of certain vegetables had gone up and attributed the inflation to climatic factors. “Things are but gradually changing. Domestic vegetable production has picked up and people have shown an inclination for locally grown organic vegetables,” he said.