Government considering lifting rice export ban

August 5th, 2008 - 9:16 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, Aug 5 (IANS) The government looks set to relaxing the ban on export of non-basmati rice, an issue that dominated the meeting of empowered group of ministers (EGOM) here Tuesday evening. The meeting chaired by Minister for External Affairs Pranab Mukherjee reviewed, among other things, the cultivation of rice this season and the availability of staple food grain in government godowns.

Food grains price was also discussed at the meeting.

“There is no food grains crisis in the country. The meeting reviewed availability of food grains,” a government official said requesting anonymity.

He said a final decision on relaxing the ban on export of non-basmati rice could be taken by a meeting of the cabinet headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

“Since the country is comfortable with rice production, some relaxation in rice export is in the pipeline, enabling limited export of the food grain,” he said.

It is learnt that the Indian government is willing to allow export of non-basmati rice to South Africa on “humanitarian grounds” to meet the need of staple food grain there.

In view of the good monsoon, the government expects a bumper kharif (summer) crop in the current season, while the advanced estimates for the preceding season has shown a significant rise in rice production.

The cabinet March 31 had decided to ban export of non-basmati rice to contain prices of essential commodities and check inflation, which soared to 11.98 percent for the week ended July 19.

The EGoM includes Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, Minister for Commerce and Industry Kamal Nath, and Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia.

Kamal Nath had last week hinted at relaxing the ban on the export of non-basmati rice.

Commerce Secretary G.K. Pillai Monday had told reporters that the ban on non-basmati rice and other food grains would stay till November.

“Till the new crop comes, whatever restrictions are there, they will stay in place,” Pillai said.

According to an official estimate, India’s consumption of rice in 2006-07 was 88.25 million tonnes. As per the fourth advance estimates for 2007-08, the production of rice was 96.43 million tonnes.

India’s wheat production has touched an all-time high at 78.40 million tonnes for 2007-08, against the third advanced estimate of 76.78 million tonnes.

India’s total wheat production in 1999-2000 was 74.25 million tonnes.

A sharp increase in production means that India might not have to import wheat at all, as its requirement of wheat based on actual consumption is estimated to be 74.8 million tonnes by 2011-12.

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