India to contribute wheat for SAARC food bank

November 5th, 2008 - 7:53 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Nov 5 (IANS) Despite banning wheat exports, India will contribute 153,000 tonnes of the grain to set up a food bank for tackling food crisis in certain SAARC countries, the government announced here Wednesday.”We have kept two million tonnes of wheat for some countries that have made a request for the grain our external affairs ministry through diplomatic channels,” Food and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar told reporters during a business summit.

The empowered group of ministers on food, headed by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Tuesday approved the decision, Pawar added.

The external affairs ministry will decide on the timing and quantity of wheat that needs to be supplied to these countries. The food bank will have an initial capacity of 243,000 tonnes.

India had banned the export of wheat in 2006, when it had to import 5.5 million tonnes of the grain to meet domestic demand.

“We have some commitments towards a few countries, so we have to take a conservative approach on allowing the export of wheat in general,” Pawar said, adding that the ban on wheat exports would not be lifted.

India produced a record 78.4 million tonnes of wheat this year, which helped the government procure 22.6 million tonnes of foodgrain - an all-time high - to run its public distribution system.

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