Food ministry says it is not averse to export of wheat or rice

NEW DELHI: Taking a U-turn, Food Minister K V Thomas today said he was not opposed to allowing exports of foodgrains and a decision on the issue will be taken by a panel of ministers at the earliest.

The government in early 2007 had banned shipment of wheat and later in April, 2008 restricted exports of non- basmati rice.

“We are not averse to export of foodgrains. I do not mind export of some quantity of wheat and rice as there is a bumper production. There are suggestions from state governments and other ministries for exports of 2 million tonnes of wheat and 1 million tonnes of rice,” Thomas told reporters, here.

An Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) on food, headed by Finance Minster Pranab Mukherjee , will take a decision at on allowing export of wheat and rice at the earliest, he said.

The minister had said several times that exports could not take place in view of the huge demand of foodgrains under the proposed National Food Security Act.

The government is now facing the problem of plenty with granaries overflowing in its godowns. As on June 1, the Food Corporation of India (FCI) has an all-time-high stock of 65.4 million tonnes of wheat and rice.

Sources said that the Food Ministry, which fears shortage of space in view of bumper procurement, has already send a proposal on this issue to the Commerce Ministry.

Asked whether the government will permit export of grains stored in FCI or from the private trade, Thomas said, “Details are being worked out. The final call will be taken by the EGoM”.

He, however, said that the export should not lead rise in domestic retail price and benefit should reach to farmers.

Wheat procurement by the FCI has touched the record 28 million tonnes in the ongoing 2011-12 rabi marketing season (April-June).
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