The government today said a mixed trend has been observed in the price behaviour of essential commodities over the past one year due to an increase in minimum support prices and hardening of international prices.
"The retail prices of sugar, pulses such as tur dal, moong, potatoes and onions have declined, while that of rice, wheat pulses such as gram dal and urad dal, edible oils such as mustard oil, groundnut oil and vanaspati increased," Food Minister K V Thomas said in a written reply in the Lok Sabha.
"The rise in prices of gram dal and urad dal and edible oil has been due to the hardening of international prices and demand and supply mismatch, due to which import is resorted to.
Weather, apart from seasonal factors, contributed to the increase in prices of some vegetables," Thomas said.
On the steps taken to control prices, the minister said a Price Monitoring Cell (PMC) has been set up in the Department of Consumer Affairs to monitor and analyse price data and the trend of availability of 21 essential commodities, including rice, wheat, pulses, mustard oil, onions, milk and potatoes.
"The government has taken fiscal, monetary measures to contain prices. It reduced import duties to zero for rice, wheat, onion, pulses, edible oils and to 7.5 per cent for refined and hydrogenated oils and vegetable oils," he added.
Stating that state governments have a major role in checking prices of essential commodities, Thomas said, "The state government's/UT administrations have been delegated powers to take necessary action under The Essential Commodities Act, 1955, and The Prevention and Maintenance of Supplies of Essential Commodities Act, 1980, to prevent hoarding and black-marketing of essential commodities."
In terms of cracking down on hoarders and black-marketers, Tamil Nadu tops the list of states -- with 120 detentions in 2010 -- followed by Gujarat, which issued 79 detention orders against wrong-doers, the minister said.