Government’s ‘Bharat’ Rice Initiative Aims to Tackle Soaring Prices and Boost Market Stability
In response to the escalating prices of rice, the Central Government has unveiled a comprehensive strategy to make this essential commodity more affordable for consumers. Under the ‘Bharat’ brand, rice will be directly sold to consumers at ₹29 per kg in 5- and 10-kg packs through cooperatives like Nafed, NCCF, and Kendriya Bhandar.
Despite earlier calls to rice millers to reduce prices having limited impact, the government is now taking a more hands-on approach. The Essential Commodities Act has been invoked, making it mandatory for traders to declare their rice/paddy stocks every Friday on a designated portal, starting February 9. The information collected will play a crucial role in determining whether stock limits similar to those imposed on wheat are necessary.
Concerns about a potential complete ban on parboiled rice exports have surfaced if domestic market prices continue to rise. Government data reveals a 14.5% increase in retail and a 15.5% surge in wholesale rice prices from the previous year, prompting officials to explore various measures to curb inflation.
Union Food Secretary Sanjeev Chopra, addressing the media, emphasized that “all options are open” to control prices, leaving room for speculation about the imposition of stock limits on rice. Chopra clarified that, excluding rice, prices of other essential food items remain under control.
Dismissing rumors of a complete export ban on parboiled rice, Chopra stated that no such plan exists. The government has allocated 5 lakh tonnes of rice to cooperatives for retail sale in the first phase, with the possibility of releasing more based on demand. Additionally, e-commerce platforms will play a role in the distribution of ‘Bharat’ rice.
Chopra highlighted that cooperatives have been instructed to reduce the percentage of broken grain in FCI-held rice to less than 5% before packing it as “Bharat Rice.” This strategic move aims to increase the availability of broken rice in the market, which is particularly suitable for ethanol production.
In an official order issued on February 2, the Department of Food and Public Distribution directed processors, millers, traders, wholesalers, retailers, and big chain retailers across all states and union territories to declare their rice/paddy stock positions on the portal under different categories.
As the government takes decisive steps to stabilize rice prices, the effectiveness of these measures will unfold in the coming weeks. The introduction of ‘Bharat’ rice, coupled with increased transparency in stock declarations, marks a significant effort to address the current challenges in the rice market and ensure stability for consumers.