Rice export ban to continue despite good harvest forecast

July 16th, 2008 - 10:30 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, July 16 (IANS) Although the government is expecting bumper rice harvest this year due to good monsoon, it has no plan to relax ban on rice exports, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said Wednesday. Speaking on the sidelines of a programme organised by the Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR) here, Pawar said the government would reconsider the ban only after it assessed the harvest by October-November.

India, like other Asian rice exporters, banned exports in April to safeguard domestic supplies and to slow food-price inflation.

India is the world’s biggest rice producer after China.

According estimates, India will produce an additional 3 million tonnes of rice in the next crop season following an increase in high price realisation the farmers received this year.

In the crop year that ended in June 2008, India produced an all-time high of 95.68 million tonnes of rice.

According to the agriculture department, the area under rice cultivation in India rose to 5.6 million hectares till July 7, from 4.71 million hectares a year ago.

Pawar indicated that the harvest of corn and soyabean will also be good, thanks to monsoon rains and higher incentives for fertilisers given to farmers.

The production of cotton and sugar are likely to be affected as states like Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, where these crops are largely cultivated, received less than normal rain.

“We are also monitoring the situation,” he said.

Asked if the government has any plan to release some wheat into the open market, he said states which have good production of wheat have been asked to regulate its prices and distribution.

The government has banned wheat exports since 2006 to ensure domestic availability and check rising food prices. According to officials, the government procured 22.2 million tonnes of wheat from farmers and may sell the grain in the open market to cool prices.

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