Blaming hoarders for recent spurt in food prices, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today said there was no need for panic as country has enough food stocks and promised stern action against black marketeers.
Eager to control prices before they spiral out of hand, the Centre today called a meeting of State food ministers to discuss steps to crack down on hoarding and improving availability in the market.
The Centre, which has in past few days imposed minimum export price on staple kitchen items like onions and potatoes and put stock holding limits on these, today indicated it was willing to consider suggestions for making hoarding of essential commodities a non-bailable offence.
"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," Arun 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."
Allaying fears of the impact of a delayed monsoon on prices, he said "monsoon has just started, it is a late start and it is too early to create any panic".
To deal with the price situation, Jaitley said some states have suggested strengthening of the Essential Commodities Act and making hoarding a non-bailable offence.
The government and the Consumer Affairs Ministry will take a view on the suggestions of making hoarding a non-bailable offence, he added.
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.
Referring to onion and potato prices, Jaitley said "there has been a record output and there is no shortage of these items"
"Therefore 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 added.
However, he said: "We have sufficient food grains stock with the government of India to face to any kind of situation.
Depending on where the shortfall or deficient areas are....if such a situation arise, we are equipped to deal."
In order to rein in prices, Jaitely said most of the state ministers suggested that the Centre should help them in augmenting storage facility.
"Some states suggested a price stabilisation fund. In case