India’s food ministry has said that the forecast for rain in the country this month should limit damage to crops, ensuring sufficient supplies. Rising food prices have been a major concern for the government, leading to restrictions on rice exports and the sale of state reserves. Wheat supplies are also sufficient, and the government is considering whether to scrap import duties.

Rains forecast for swathes of India this month should limit the damage to crops after a delayed monsoon and parched August, leaving the world’s most populous nation with sufficient supplies, the food ministry’s top bureaucrat said.

Rising food prices have been a major headache for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, prompting aggressive moves over the past few weeks to protect the domestic market, including a series of curbs on rice shipments that have pushed the region’s benchmark price to its highest in almost 15 years.

India, the world’s top rice shipper, has now restricted exports of every variety of the staple. It is also selling tomatoes, onions and grains from state reserves to improve local supplies.

But Food Secretary Sanjeev Chopra said in an interview on Friday that thanks to ample grain reserves, plus an imminent new rice crop, the country’s situation was not worrisome. Normal to above-normal rains are also forecast in many areas this month, offsetting the impact of disruptions including the driest August in more than a century.

“The government has taken many steps to ensure the food security of the country,” Chopra said. “As of now, there are no proposals for any further export curbs,” he said, adding restrictions had already served their purpose.

Government stockpiles of rice and wheat are sufficient to run food and other welfare programs, while procurement of rice from the 2023-24 harvest will begin in October, boosting state reserves further. The government will, though, monitor stockpiles of pulses and other foods held by traders to stop hoarding.

Wheat Duties
Local wheat supplies are also adequate to meet demand in the world’s second-biggest producer and consumer, Chopra said, adding that the government hadn’t taken any decision yet on whether to scrap import duties, a move that would make purchases from overseas more attractive.

“All options are open,” he said. “We are monitoring the situation. In case we feel that there is any kind of requirement, then the government will exercise the option which is appropriate at that point in time.”

Asked about supplies from Russia — the top exporter, selling from a bumper crop — Chopra said there had been no conversations regarding government-to-government import deals.

While food prices are likely to remain in the headlines as elections near, there are other indications that pressures are easing. Last week, Chief Economic Advisor V. Anantha Nageswaran said food inflation in India was likely to subside with the arrival of fresh stocks, while the core inflation rate is declining.

Chopra said markets and consumers should not expect any spikes in prices: “We are giving that signal.”

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