Pawar favours foodgrain export

Last Updated: Wed, Apr 20, 2011 19:31 hrs

India may soon allow exports of rice and wheat due to higher production of foodgrains estimated on normal monsoon forecast.

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) forecast on Tuesday of normal rainfall this monsoon boosted prospects of farm output this season.

Agriculture minister Sharad Pawar today said India should allow access to international markets to manage excessive stocks of foodgrains. Amid expectations, however, concern over high foodgrain prices in the domestic market may weigh on any government decision to sell the commodities overseas.

“There is ample space available in the international market for the export of foodgrains, cotton and sugar,” said Pawar.

India, the world's second-largest producer of wheat and rice, had suspended free export of foodgrains since 2007, when adverse weather conditions hit domestic production and the Indian government had to import at record high global price. However, the government allowed some quantities of foodgrain exports on diplomatic grounds to neighbouring countries.

As on March 1, the country’s wheat reserves swelled to 17.2 million tonnes, more than double the government’s target of 8.2 million tonnes. Along with higher existing stocks, this year’s wheat output forecast at 84.3 million tonnes has prompted policy makers to take a call on exports today. Rice output in the country during 2010-11 was estimated at 102 million tonnes.

Meanwhile, godowns in Punjab have started overflowing and procurement of wheat has been slowed down, according to an analyst.

Around 11.2 million tonnes of foodgrains comprising 5.1 million tonnes of wheat and 6.1 million tonnes of rice is stored in various storages in Punjab, occupying thereby more than 50 per cent of the 20 million tonnes of allocated space in cover and plinth storage, owned and hired by the Food Corporation of India (FCI).

Data collated by the National Co-operative Consumers Federation (NCCF), the body formed by the agriculture ministry to manage 600 co-operative retail shops in the country, said foodgrain output during 2010-11 may even surpass the record of 234.47 million tonnes in 2008-09. India’s foodgrain output in 2010-11 was estimated at 235.88 million tonnes as compared to 218.11 million tonnes in the previous year. Analysts believe output may rise further in 2011-12 on normal monsoon rainfall predictions.

As a result, India’s farm growth may surpass four per cent in 2011-12. Virendra Singh, Chairman of NCCF, said the government’s effort to raise farm output in the country had also yielded favourable results, following increase in acreage area across all commodities.

The government allocated Rs 400 crore through the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana for increasing output in Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. To increase production of pulses, Rs 300 crore has been allotted. Jammu & Kashmir has been allocated Rs 288 crore, to be used during four years for increasing the production of saffron.

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