New Delhi: The government said it may review import duty on edible oils after Diwali in view of the fall in global prices but ruled out lifting the ban on non-basmati rice exports.
“It is true that edible oil prices in the international market have been falling and its effect on domestic producers is likely. That’s why we think we need to give a second thought to it. We will decide on it after Diwali,” Food and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said.
However, the minister also adopted a cautious approach. “When it will fall below the minimum support prices, we will intervene in the market. At the same time, we will have to see that in pulses and oilseeds, there is a gap between demand and supply. So attention should be given to the fact that it won’t impact oilseed and pulses production,” he said.
The fall in global market has affected domestic edible oil prices, which have gone down by Rs8,000 per tonne to Rs20,000, the Solvent Extractors Organisation had said in a letter to the ministries of Agriculture, Finance and Commerce, urging for a re-imposition of import duty and lifting of exports ban.
Asked about the rationale behind continuing with exports ban when there is a fall in the prices, Pawar said: “We will study that. We have received recommendations from Gujarat about two-three items. We are thinking on it.”
The curbs on non-basmati exports are also unlikely to be lifted as of now, despite projections of bumper output. “No, no. The question of easing ban on non-basamati exports doesn’t arise. We won’t think about it as long as we have not procured enough and well,” Pawar said.
However, the government may think of providing fresh impetus to non-basmati rice exports after Diwali as fears of losing overseas markets to rival nations loom large.
“We can think about it because India’s share in the global basamati market should not be affected and we should focus on the fact that nobody should take advantage out of our share. We will think about it after Diwali,” Pawar said.
“The government may consider reducing the duties on basmati exports,” he added.
The Centre has imposed a minimum export price (MSP) of $1,200 and a cess of Rs8,000 per tonne on basamati shipments.
The minister also ruled out extending more bonus to paddy farmers in step with the demand made by some states.
“See, everyone can ask but one has to see consumers’ interest. I don’t want that you should get rice in the open market at Rs35 a kilo. one has to see that angle,” he said.
To further his point, the minister said even before the bonus was announced, Food Corporation of India had procured more compared with the last year.
“Without bonus also farmers have given more to FCI. What does it indicate?” he asked.
The government declared last week a Rs50-bonus per quintal to paddy farmers. The MSP of common variety paddy has been fixed at Rs850 a quintal whereas that of the grade A variety stands at Rs880.
Asked if the ban on the futures trading of certain commodities will be lifted, the minister said: “We have not thought about it yet.”