New Delhi: India is looking at importing rice from Thailand and Vietnam through diplomatic deals, trade minister Anand Sharma said on Tuesday, for the first time in 20 years to shore up supplies.
The federal government might also consider banning cotton exports to improve domestic market supplies, said Sharma.
Three state-run trading firms last month floated rice import tenders totalling 30,000 tonnes and received 18 bids ranging from $373 to $599 per tonne.
Of the three, MMTC Ltd said prices quoted in the bids were too high.
“Various possibilities are there. We are also exploring the option of government-to-government deals,” Sharma said, adding his government might buy rice from Thailand and Vietnam.
He said a panel of ministers would meet on 20 November to decide on the bids received for the rice import tenders of State Trading Corp of India, MMTC Ltd and PEC Ltd.
Sharma said the country had sufficient stocks of rice and imports were aimed at shoring up supplies.
Although India has ample grain stocks, this year’s poor monsoon has raised doubts about the output of summer-sown crops.
The government on 3 November said summer-planted rice output could record a bigger-than-expected fall of 18% to 69.45 million tonnes on year.
On 1 October, rice stocks at government warehouses were 84% higher at 14.5 million tonnes on year, while wheat stocks were 23% more at 27 million tonnes.
Sharma said wheat stocks are in surplus and there would be no need to import the grain.
Some private Indian firms have sealed deals to import 10,000 tonnes of wheat, for the first time in two years.
Following requests from textile firms, the government might consider banning exports of cotton, Sharma said.
“There has been a request to ban cotton exports....We are in discussions with all the stakeholders. Textile minister has also put in a word. We may consider it,” he said.
Cotton output in India, the world’s second-biggest producer, is expected at 30.5 million bales (1 bale=170 kg) in the year ending September 2010 as against 29 million bales in 2008-09.