New Delhi: Agriculture minister Sharad Pawar Monday said the government will take a final view on lifting the export ban on wheat and non-basmati rice after assessing foodgrains requirement under the proposed National Food Security Act.
Last month, Pawar had said that the government should give a serious thought on allowing export of wheat and non-basmati rice, banned in February 2007 and April 2008, respectively, as FCI has foodgrains stock higher than the buffer norm.
Stating that the Prime Minister had Sunday announced that the food bill will be brought in the monsoon session, Pawar said: “If we have to take a responsibility of providing food as a right and give substantial quantity at reasonable rates, it is a responsibility of food and agriculture ministries to see that sufficient foodgrains stocks are there”.
The minister said that empowered group of ministers on food will meet this week to “take some definite view on the total requirement of foodgrains under the Food Security Act and then we will take a view on export”.
His today’s comment is in line with food ministry, which has consistently maintained its view that ensuring food security under the proposed law is priority and not exports.
The proposed food bill, which was promised by the Congress in its 2009 poll-manifesto, is still underway. The bill seeks to provide legal guarantee over specified quantity of foodgrains at reasonable price to the poor.
Also says he has not heard of wheat prices falling below the Minimum Support Price of Rs 1,750 per quintal even as the Committee for Agricultural Costs and Prices chairman Ashok Gulati says distress sale of wheat at as low as 1,000 rs is taking place in parts of Gujarat, Bihar and eastern UP.
“We will have to ask the food ministry... If there is any such situation, we will definitely talk to Food Corp of India,” Pawar told reporters at an event on Monday.
The glut and the fall in farmers income could snowball into agri loan defaults that will hurt the banking sector already burdened by bad debts.
The National Advisory Council (NAC), headed by Sonia Gandhi, has suggested that the bill should cover the 75% of the population, while the Rangarajan Committee has pointed out that it was not feasible to cover such large population due to supply constraints.
In the last meeting, the empowered group of ministers (EGOM) on food, had decided to hold high-level consultation on proposed Food Bill with the Prime Minister and the NAC chief, Sonia Gandhi.
As on 1 April, the government had a foodgrains stock of 42 million tonnes, against the buffer norm of over 20 million tonnes.