Food security figures prominently in budget

With the pandemic taking a huge toll on the economic prospects and livelihoods of people, allocations for food subsidy, food security, and market interventions to rein in prices figured prominently in the State Budget.

While the government has decided to continue with the distribution of food kits against the backdrop of increasing COVID-19 cases, the budget announced the allocation of an additional 10 kg of rice at ₹15 to 50 lakh families with blue and white ration cards.

Finance Minister Dr. T.M. Thomas Isaac also announced a scheme for official rating of hotels, provision stores, and supermarkets to enhance the quality of their services.

An allocation of ₹1,060 crore has been made for food subsidy and ₹230 crore for market intervention. The budget allocated ₹40 crore for the implementation of the Food Security Act and ₹25 crore for modernising the Civil Supplies Department including SupplyCo.

Dr. Isaac claimed that the government had spent ₹10,697 crore for strengthening the Public Distribution System as against ₹5,242 crore by the previous government. The prices of select food items at Maveli stores have not been raised since 2015-16. Yet, the average monthly inflation in Kerala was only 6.13% as against the national average of 6.70% till last September, the Minister said.

Around 15 lakh deserving families were included in the Red Card category by excluding the undeserving from the beneficiary list prepared by the previous government. Quoting data from the Economics and Statistics Department, Dr. Isaac claimed that market intervention measures by the government had helped reduce the prices of five major varieties of rice and vegetables during the Onam season.

To further enhance food security, the Industries Department has proposed to set up micro food processing units in association with the Centre. An inter-disciplinary school of food science and technology has been proposed. The budget also proposed door delivery of food to the needy from the Kudumbashree Janakeeya hotels as part of the Hunger-free Kerala project.

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