COVID-19: Consumer Affairs Ministry asks States to ensure sufficent stock of essential supplies

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on March 21, 2020

Pawan Agarwal, Secretary, Consumer Affairs, Food & Civil Supplies   -  BUSINESS LINE

The Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Civil Supplies has asked State governments to ensure there is no shortage of essential supplies including hygiene products such as hand sanitisers and masks that now fall under the Essential Commodities Act.

The Ministry on Friday fixed prices for masks and hand sanitisers. They stated that the retail prices of 200 ml bottle of hand sanitisers cannot be more than Rs 100.

They also said that other quantities shall also be fixed in the same proportion.

Pawan Agarwal, Secretary, Consumer Affairs, Food & Civil Supplies has asked State government officials to monitor the prices of commodities under the EC Act.

In an official statement, the Ministry said that a few States have made hygiene products such as hand sanitisers and face masks available for sale through the PDS network. Agarwal has advised that others States "may also follow the model. Industry representatives have also shown interest in distributing such hygiene products at lower prices through the Fair Price Shops."

Agarwal also said that the Centre has issued orders that States can lift foodgrain supplies for upto six months and pass on to retailers so that consumers can stock at homes. He held a meeting through video-conferencing on Friday with all state officials.

While Punjab govt officials informed that they have surplus foodgrain stocks and godowns can offload to fulfill the demands of other states. Other State officials from Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Daman, Goa, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Kerala, Maharashtra, Punjab and Uttarakhand informed the Secretary that they are not facing supplies shortage including that of fruits, vegetables and milk and have adequate stocks while ramping up of hygiene products, the statement added.

“Director, Civil Supplies, Kerala requested that since the State does not produce foodgrains, it may be ensured that truck movements carrying EC stocks are allowed from other states that have enforced travel restrictions. States/UTs were advised that transport of essential supplies including food and hygiene products across the States/UTs must be maintained. States/UTs could however put requirement and tracking of hygiene of drivers/helpers at the entry points,” the official statement from the Ministry added.

Agarwal has also asked States such as Maharashtra, to ensure that couriers of e-commerce platforms are allowed to operate in big cities where restrictions on movement are in place. He also asked the States to ensure stocks of Ethyl Alcohol, the major component in sanitiser sprays, are made available to deodorant manufacturers so that they can ramp up production. “The Secretary also directed the States that biometric authentication for retail sales to consumers can be temporarily suspended in order to contain the spread of the Covid pandemic,” the official statement added.

The Department of Consumer Affairs along with the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) has asked manufacturers and retailers of hygiene products to ramp up production capacity and ensure fair distribution and retail, besides administering their prices, the statement added.

Published on March 21, 2020

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