New Delhi: Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar on Wednesday favoured that highly subsidised foodgrains under the proposed food security law should be given only to the "really needy people" and sought to suggest that the government have a relook at prices of ration supplies.

Pawar also said the government should ensure that subsidised foodgrains are not misused as procurement prices are much higher than the rates at which grains are supplied through ration shops.

"Many have shared apprehensions with me on providing cereals at Re 1 per kg (under the Act)...If the government buys jowar at Rs 30 and sell cereals at Re 1 per kg, I think
it will affect the country's economy," Pawar told reporters at the Economic Editors' Conference here.

Rice, wheat and coarse cereals should be supplied at Rs 3/kg, Rs 2/kg and Rs 1 per kg, respectively to the "the really needy section...but it should not be generalised," he said.

Asked whether he favours an increase in prices of ration supplies, he said the government has been raising the minimum support price to farmers every year but the selling price of ration supplies has not been hiked in last 8-10 years.

"Sometime, one has to apply mind and see the repercussions. My suggestion is that you should go in for that (hike in price of ration supplies) and assess the repercussions. I don't want the Soviet Russia to happen in this country," he added.

Last month, the Food Ministry had circulated the draft Food Security Bill for public comments. Under the proposed Bill, 68 per cent of the country's population would be covered under two categories -- the priority and the general.

Regarding beneficiaries under the proposed Bill, Pawar said the government's policy, announced in Parliament, was to provide wheat, rice and cereals at a cheaper rate to the
"weaker section" of the society.

However, the draft Food Security Bill has increased the ambit of coverage and is proposing to cover 68 per cent of the country's population. For this, the government would not only
require more foodgrains, but food subsidy would also rise to Rs 1,00,000 crore from the current Rs 82,000 crore.

Under the draft Bill, the government aims to cover 75 per cent of the country's rural population and 50 per cent of the urban India.

The priority households (which in current system is below poverty line) will get 7 kg of rice, wheat or coarse or grain per person per month at Rs 3, Rs 2 and Re 1 a kg, respectively. The general households (above poverty line) will get 3 kgs of foodgrains at upto 50 per cent of MSP.

"The Act proposes to provide wheat at Rs 2 per kg. The acquisition cost of wheat is somewhat around Rs 16 per kg and the government subsidy would be Rs 14 per kg.  The government should be careful that the grain is not misused," Pawar said.

He, however, said that that the proposed Act was necessary to ensure food and nutritional security of the poor.

(Agencies)