Rice prices boil in city as YSR’s pet scheme staggers millers
The Y S Rajasekhara Reddy government’s populist Rs 2-a-kg rice scheme is burning a hole in the middle class consumer’s pocket.
Hyderabad’s supply of rice has dropped by 50 per cent as only those millers, who have made their contribution towards the scheme, can supply stock to the twin cities.
Hoarding of stock by some millers is further fuelling the cost of Hyderabad’s staple diet. Prices of various varieties of rice have shot by approximately 30 to 40 per cent.
Hyderabad consumes rice worth Rs 8 crore a day with over 400 lorries catering to the city’s rice demand, with each lorry carrying approximately 8.5 to 9 tonnes, which is worth Rs 2 lakh, say rice traders. Now, with the government giving permission to only those suppliers, who have sold a portion of the supply to Food Corporation of India (FCI), to enter Hyderabad, the number of lorries coming to the city has gone down by half.
A miller says that the government diktat on their supply ratio to FCI vis-a-vis the open market is responsible for this shortage.
“If we are selling three quintals to FCI, we are selling one quintal in the market. We get permission to enter the market only after we have shown proof that the FCI contribution has been made,” said a miller, who did not wish to be identified. Rice to FCI is being sold at Rs 12 per kg for the Rs 2 per kg rice scheme.
The city sources a chunk of its rice from Mirayalguda in Nalgonda district, known for supplying the good quality rice. Traders say it is this supply that is worst hit now as very few suppliers in that region have opted to sell rice to FCI. Traders note that it was for this reason that the recent raid in godowns in Mirayalguda yielded rice worth Rs 200 crore.
The crisis had started about two months ago but escalated recently.
And chief minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy’s recent warning to check prices of essential commodities like rice has rubbed traders the wrong way, who claim they are already incurring losses to the tune of Rs 50,000 per month with millers selling them rice at Rs 26 and the government asking them to sell it to consumers at the same price. Retailers admit to selling rice at Rs 28 or Rs 29 stealthily but note they can’t do their business with the government dictating prices when it itself is responsible for the price rise.
While the government has even fixed the selling price for millers at Rs 20, retailers note there is no compliance with millers selling rice without giving the bill. In cases where they do give a bill, a lesser amount is quoted.
City Goes On A Crash Diet As Rice Prices Hit The Roof
With rice prices soaring, the demand for Hyderabadi’s staple food item is dipping. Grocery store owners say the demand for rice has gone down significantly.
“Earlier while we would keep 2-3 varieties of rice, now we have restricted it to mere one, as the procurement cost is high and there is not much margin for profit. Even the demand has gone down by 50 per cent due to prices escalating high,” says a grocery store owner in Sindhi Colony.
Rice retailers point out that Sona Masuri, which they earlier procured for Rs 18 to Rs 19, is now available at Rs 25 and that they have to sell it for Rs 28, says a retailer in Sindhi Colony. He says selling rice at the rate prescribed by the government is not possible, and they are forced to sell surreptitiously to customers at a higher price.
The price of the cheapest variety “tukda rice” has shot from Rs 9 to Rs 15 as a large part of the supply of this variety is procured by the government to sell at fair price shops for Rs 2 a kg and there is little left for its sale in the market. Sona masoori regular which was earlier available for Rs 20 to Rs 22 per kg has now shot to Rs 28. Sona masoori premium which ranged from 24-26 per kg can now be availed only after shelling Rs 32 per kg. Eating Jeera rice and Basmati Kohinoor would be no less than a luxury now with their prices making an almost 40 per cent jump.
Rice eaters in the city are complaining about the adjustments they are now being forced to make. Alivelu Atmakuri, a homemaker, says it pains when adjustments have to be made in the staple food item. “Rice is part of daily diet and cannot be left out even if the prices are soaring and we cannot adjust by compromising on quality drastically too. So, the budget suffers.” Local businessman P Venkatesh Babu adds that compromising on quality is not the best option. “We try to make up a little by buying in bulk.” While the city procures most of its rice from Mirayalguda, now some varieties of rice are being procured from East and West Godavari as well. “The civil supplies department is supplying rice Rs 18 per kg variety to kirana stores but that can be bought only up to 5 kg by ration card holders,” says a rice retailer.
There is another subsidized variety of rice available with stores, but they say there are few takers “since the minimum purchase for the subsidized rice is 10 kg,” says a store owner.
“Moreover, not many people are showing interest in buying this quality as it gets sticky after cooking and we do not provide any guarantee for it,” the retailer adds.
Weavers threaten to lay siege to YSR’s residence
A round table organised by city-based ‘Cheneta Vargala Chaitanya Vedika’ has set October 17 deadline for the State Government to concede the demands of weavers failing which the organisation would lay siege to Chief Minister’s residence here. Leaders of the BJP, TRS, Nava Telangana Praja Party, Praja Rajyam, TDP, Lok Satta attended the meeting which was chaired by Yerramada Venkanna Neta, convener, while representatives of the CPI(M), CPI and Congress kept away. Among the participants were G. Kishan Reddy and E. Rajender, floor leaders of BJP and TRS respectively, E. Peddi Reddy (NTPP), U. Peddanna (PRP), K. Venkateswarlu, secretary, TDP’s handloom wing, Devadas (Lok Satta), and K. Ramesh, secretary, Cheneta Karmika Sangham. The demands include constitution of an all-party committee to avert suicides of weavers and special residential schools for their children, waiver of all loans and a minimum wage for them of Rs.6,000.
The speakers wanted the Government, with its guarantee, to extend loans of Rs.50,000 and Rs.30,000 for each silk and cotton loom respectively at three per cent. They demanded supply of only APCO livery to all Government departments and route such orders through a special agency to power loom workers at Sircilla and elsewhere.
Attacks: Christians’ plea to YSR
Members of the AP Federation of Churches (APFC) on Friday urged Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy to take up the matter of security of Christian minorities and institutions with the Centre to put an end to violence perpetrated by religious fanatics. A delegation comprising APFC general secretaries and Bishops Rt. Rev. Dr. Gali Bali (Guntur), Rt. Rev. Dr. G. Dyvasirvadam (Krishna-Godavari) and Rt. Rev. Dr. M.D. Prakasam (Nellore) and others called on Dr. Reddy on Friday morning. Expressing concern over the attacks on Christian properties, the religious heads urged him to use his good offices with the Centre.