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While the inflationary pressure has gone out of control from the government, commodity prices have been steadily increasing. During the week, price of fish jumped by 6%, fruits and vegetables by 3% and moong dal and spices by 2% and 1% respectively. Despite export bans, skimmed milk was costlier by 7% and imported edible oil by 1%. Furnace oil was costlier by 3% and light diesel oil by 2%.

Lack of buying interest, inadequate storage spaced cited as reasons for the fall in prices.

Rice production in the State is dwindling. Though there was a fluctuating trend between 2003-04 and 2005-06 in its production, the output of the item showed a sharp decline during 2006-07.

Declining agricultural productivity and the increasing demand for foodgrains have emerged as a big challenge before the country.

Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, while presenting his Budget for 2008-09 today proposed abolition of Value Added Tax (VAT) from rice, pulses, atta, maida, suji and besan.

Acute water shortage in Nara canal system has badly hit wheat, vegetable, sugarcane and other crops as several branches and distributaries are closed for more than 10 days.

The minister for agriculture, Mr N. Raghuveera Reddy, said an Agriculture Regulatory Commission would be appointed to decide payment of bonus for various crops in the state. Speaking to newsmen here on Thursday, he said that the state government has decided to pay minimum support price and bonus for various crops. Mr Raghuveera Reddy said the Chief Minister, Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy, and he had studied various benefits being provided to farmers in China, Israel, America and other countries. The minister said the government has decided to directly pay bonus to farmers. He said subsidy and bonus would be directly credited to the bank accounts of farmers as was being done in other countries. The minister said the government would initiate a discussion on establishment of regulatory commission in Legislative Assembly and Council. After taking into consideration suggestions given by farmers unions, Opposition parties and experts, the government would take steps to help farmers, the minister added. He said a study was also being conducted to help tenant farmers, who were facing problems. The minister said for the first time in the country loans were being directly given to tenant farmers in the state. So far, loans were given to 75,000 tenant farmers in the state, he added. Mr Raghuveera Reddy said there were more tenant farmers in Prakasam district. He said 50,000 ideal farmers would be selected and 4,500 rythu sanghams would be formed in the state. The minister said specific plans would be formulated to strengthen agriculture from village-level. Mr Raghuveera Reddy said it was shameful for Telugu Desam (TD) leader N. Chandrababu Naidu to announce that he had a great plan to help farmers. The minister said that state farmers were unhappy with the statement of Mr Naidu, who during his nine-year-old rule had detested farmers. Mr Raghuveera Reddy said the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) leaders had resigned from their posts due to fear that they would lose their existence in Telangana. He said the Congress was ready to face by-elections in the seats vacated by the TRS leaders and the party would abide by the decision of the people.

The State Food and Civil Supplies Minister, Dr Nazrul Hussain today told the Assembly that deficit production and increase of price at source due to rising demand were at the root of the price rise in essential commodities, especially foodgrains, in the State. Replying to a question raised by Ananta Deka of CPM during zero hour, Dr Islam said that the current price rise was a national phenomenon and affected Assam and the North-East more because of the transportation costs. The Minister said that his department was coordinating with district and subdivisional administrations for properly monitoring the developments so that unscrupulous elements could not take advantage of the situation. The situation in places like Delhi, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Jaipur, etc., were also kept track of and constantly compared with that of the State. "Deficit production in rice, dal, wheat, mustard, etc., and the lowering of Government subsidies are having an impact on price rise. The recent export of 5 lakh MT rice to Bangladesh has also added to the growing demand in the source States,' Dr Islam said. "Common rice which was sold at Rs 12 a kg in Kolkata on October 8, 2007 shot up to Rs 14 on February 8, 2008. The same rice is being sold in Delhi at Rs 17 a kg. In Guwahati, common rice which fetched Rs 12.50-Rs 14 a kg in October last year, was sold at Rs 14-Rs 16 in January,' he said. The Minister further said that the rise in import prices of various edible oils was contributing to the price rise. "India imports a sizeable quantity of refined vegetable oil and refined rapeseed oil from Malaysia, and recently there has been considerable increase in the their prices. Again, mustard oil produced in the country has also become costlier,' he said. Dr Islam said that the department, during 2007, registered 726 cases regarding the public distribution system (PDS), which "showed that we are taking steps to streamline the system.' Moreover, the Bureau of Investigation of Economic Offences (BIEO) has been entrusted with the job of making an inquiry into the PDS scam that rocked the State last year. Dr Islam said that the six per cent railway fare cut for the North-Eastern States would come into effect from April only.

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