To quote S.Truett Cathy, “Food is essential to life, therefore, make it good”. In the context of India, this quote can be amended to make it amenable to the price sensitive Indian masses, “Food is essential to life, therefore, make it affordable for the masses”. When it comes to profiteering, the Indian corporate is ironically not brutally competitive but remarkably collusive. Looked at from an absolutely objective viewpoint this is probably because most Indian corporates deem their net profit accounts as much more important than making essential food items accessible to the Indian consumers. Enquiries have revealed that the current spiral in the prices of pulses is due to corporate majors such as Reliance, Tata, Adani and Mahindra, among others hoarding and holding stock of pulses in view of the predictions of poor monsoon this year. Grain merchants have also written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in this regard, but alas in vain.
Apart from the aforementioned Indian corporates, global giants-which deal in pulses-like ETC and Edelweiss, are also not releasing their buffer stock. As experts have pointed out recently, if the stocks are not released on time, the prices will touch an astronomical Rs 200 per kg-mark. Even more alarmingly, the price of one quintal gram of chana dal has shot up to Rs 4,000 from the earlier Rs 3,500. The rate of arhar dal has touched Rs 7,000 per quintal, which was earlier sold at Rs 5,200. This is an alarming rise in price levels, as far as food price inflation is concerned. The per quintal price of arhar dal and chana dal rising has lead to a rise in its price in the retail market, arhar dal is being sold at Rs 105 per kg while the rate of chana dal has gone up to Rs 85 per kg from Rs 70/kg,” a market expert had stated. As if predictions by the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) that India will most likely experience a weak monsoon were not ominous enough, this corporate price strategising has raised significant concerns. If these predictions were to come true, then this would mean that a below normal monsoon could lead to a domino effect of sorts and consequently lead to sky-rocketing food-price inflation. If the present government cannot summon the political will for whatever constraints it may be understandably facing, then it could consider alternative routes to ease the heavy burden on the average Indian buyer of pulses. For the Indian customer, whether it is pulses or vegetables, any rise in prices is a cause for worry. This is because given the shoestring and limited budget that most households in this country operate in even a slight rise in prices can lead to the delicate balance of that budget going topsy-turvy. What the present government should probably examine closely is the way in which agricultural produce, whether it be pulses or vegetables, are sold. Currently the traditional Indian food market (mandi) is under the stranglehold of middlemen. If food prices are to be brought down then a game plan must be devised to tackle the profit-seeking strategies of corporates and the bottleneck of middlemen in farmers markets. If this not done then very soon many households would have to think multiple times before buying essential food items like pulses. Such a scenario could be avoided if proactive action is taken.