Dependence on the public distribution system (PDS) for buying essential commodities has gone up in recent times, according to the results of the latest household consumption survey.

The National Sample Survey (NSS) 66th round, done in 2009-10, shows that consumption of rice, wheat, sugar and kerosene, sold through the PDS, rose both in urban and rural households, against the previous survey in 2004-05. The fact that the Government has not revised the issue price of bulk of these items since 2002 seems to have aided the consumption. Kerosene prices were last revised in June 2011.

Rural households reported more PDS purchases than their urban counterparts for almost all commodities. In case of rice, States such as Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh reported a higher proportion of both urban and rural households making purchases from the PDS.

However, in West Bengal, Bihar and Jharkhand – where rice is the main cereal – a very low proportion of households reported PDS purchases. In majority of these rice-producing States, the consumption was from home-grown stocks. However, the share of rice consumption from home produce across the country fell to 25 per cent from 30 per cent in the previous survey.

In case of wheat and wheat products, Madhya Pradesh had the highest PDS offtake, while in major wheat-producing States like Haryana and Punjab, PDS purchases were quite low. As in the case of rice, the share of wheat consumption from home produce fell to 37 per cent from 40 per cent in 2004-05.

Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh reported the highest offtake of PDS sugar, while the share was lower in Punjab, Rajasthan, Bihar, Haryana and urban areas of Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh.

All States, except Punjab and Haryana, reported higher consumption of PDS kerosene. Kerala and West Bengal topped in higher urban consumption of kerosene, while rural purchase of the fuel was higher in all but two States – Jharkhand and Assam.

Interestingly, in case of milk, the share of home produce dropped to 59 per cent from 62 per cent as more farmers are increasingly relying on selling milk to earn more. The share of home produce for most pulses also fell by 3-5 per cent during the period.

vishwanath.kulkarni@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on January 28, 2013)
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