India faces sugar, pulses shortage

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Indy Lifestyle Online

India's trade minister acknowledged Monday the country faced a shortfall of sugar and pulses, a staple food product for most Indians, after the country's weakest monsoon in four decades.

"There is a shortage of pulses and sugar," Anand Sharma said at a banking summit in New Delhi, adding that he hoped price pressures would ease with a stronger winter crop.

The weak monsoon pushed up food prices by 19 percent in 2009, putting home budgets under strain.

Sugar prices have almost doubled since January last year and are still rising because of a production shortfall, according to government data reported by the Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency.

Potato prices rose 110 percent in January year-on-year, followed by pulses which jumped up 42.21 percent while vegetables were costlier by more than 30 percent in the period.

The government, under pressure to help mitigate the impact of rising prices, has stressed that no one will go hungry due to emergency stocks and imports.

PTI reported last week that New Delhi had imported 3.65 million tonnes of sugar since October 2009 and said a contracted amount of 2.3 million tonnes of the commodity was yet to arrive.

Quoting an unnamed government official, Dow Jones Newswires said India was planning to import an additional million tonnes of sugar by September 30, 2010 to meet a deficit.

India had initially said it would have to import rice for the first time since the 1980s but has since cancelled three tenders.

Sharma said again Monday that the country would not import rice or wheat.

In September, India's weather office announced that the country suffered its worst drought since 1972, with rains 23 percent below average at the end of the country's four-month monsoon season.

- Dow Jones Newswires contributed to this report -