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Food ministers step in to tackle India’s food commodity crisis

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

Pulse prices have remained frustratingly high due to poor monsoons
Pulse prices have remained frustratingly high due to poor monsoons

Related tags Nutrition Food

State food ministers have met in Delhi to examine ways that they can co-ordinate action to contain rises in the price of essential food commodities.

A number of measures were announced following the meeting, convened by Ram Vilas Paswan, federal minister of consumer affairs, food and public distribution, and attended by senior figures in the agriculture, commerce and health ministries.

These included a recommendation to delist pulses from the futures market, favouring a lower import duty on sugar from 40%, directing states to rationalise stockholding limits on pulses for millers, producers and importers, and exempting them from value-added tax.

The government will also consider increasing the size of the pulses buffer stock to 900,000 tonnes from the current level of 150,000 tonnes. Farmers may also be encouraged to purchase land abroad to grow pulses.

The retail price of pulses has maintained an upwards trajectory this year, and now stands at over Rs190 (US$2.83) per kilo in most parts of the country due to a fall in domestic output resulting from a poor monsoon.

With production at around 17m tonnes and demand at 23.6, tonnes in spite of an additional 5.5m tonnes of imported pulses over the last year 2015-16, there is still a shortfall of around 1m tonnes, putting upward pressure on prices, Paswan said.

With sugar supplies also critical, Paswan said he would consider lowering the import duty on sugar and banning exports if prices spiked. 

"We will take all measures to check a price rise in sugar. Besides pulses, edible oils, sugar and potato, the prices of all other commodities are under control​," the minister said.

The meeting also adopted a five-point action plan to contain prices of essential commodities that includes a price stabilisation fund in states.

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Naturell launches India’s first protein-rich extruded snack

Naturell India has launched a seven-grain protein snack which it claims is a first of its kind in the country.

Protein

Its new RiteBite Max Protein chips are India’s only extruded protein-rich savoury snack which is neither fried or baked, the self-styled “visionary healthy lifestyle brand​” says. 

The hot-air puffed chips, which are made from oats, wheat, soy, ragi, gram, corn and rice, are available in three flavours: Cheese & Jalapeño, Spanish Tomato and Minty Chaat. 

They contain three times the amount of protein in corn chips or nachos, and three times less the quantity of fat in fried namkeens, Naturell claims.

Containing 10 grams of protein, equivalent to two cups of daal, and three grams of fibre, per serving, the company hopes RiteBite Max Protein will trade on India’s growing trend towards healthy foods, especially in urban areas.

Rising awareness among consumers about healthier snacking has brought a growth in demand for protein- and fibre-rich at the same time as a reduction in preference for fat-laden oily snacks. Yet, according to a recent consumer survey by the Indian Market Research Bureau, 80% of Indian diets are protein deficient. 

Ever since Naturell’s inception, we have focused on products which promote a healthy lifestyle​,” said Vijay Uttarwar, chief executive. 

RiteBite Max Protein is our endeavour to add value to the food industry by offering a blend of nutrition and taste, keeping in mind the growing needs of healthy eating​.”

Ruchi fully divests in Kagome tomato joint-venture

Ruchi Soya Industries has sold its share of a joint-venture with Kagome Foods, a Japanese tomato products manufacturer, and investment firm Mitsui & Co.

Ruchi

The company has disposed of its entire stake in the JV company at a consideration of Rs630m [US$9.3m] and has entered into termination agreement and share purchase agreement with Kagome Co and others, on May 20, 2016, resulting into termination of JV arrangement with parties thereto​," India’s biggest manufacturer of edible oils said in a filing to Bombay Stock Exchange. 

Madhya Pradesh-based Ruchi, which is also one of India’s leading exporters of soya meal, lecithin and other food ingredients, entered into the joint-venture in 2013 to launch premium tomato puree, sauces, ketchup and other products in India. News of the sale led the company’s shares to jump by 7% in the day’s trading.

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