Govt to sell rice in open market

Written by Commodities Bureau | Agencies | New Delhi, Nov 6 | Updated: Nov 7 2008, 06:48am hrs
Buoyed by ample foodgrain stocks, the government is now contemplating on selling rice in the open market within months of starting a similar programme for wheat. It is also planning to increase the monthly rice releases to states to counter any hike in prices. We will sell limited quantities in the open market and might increase releases to state governments, agriculture minister Sharad Pawar told reporters on the sidelines of an industry conference, declining to specify the exact quantum of rice that the government wants to sell.

On Tuesday, the minister said that the country would set aside two million tonne of wheat to meet requests made through diplomatic channels, making an exemption to a broad export ban. Indias foodgrain stocks (wheat and rice) has swelled to more than 28 million tonne as on October 17, while the buffer stocks of both the commodities are expected to be much more than requirement.

Enthused by comfortable foodgrain stocks, the government in September decided to sell around 2.0 million tonne of wheat through the open market sale scheme (OMSS).

Of this, around 1.0 million tonne was allocated directly to states for sale to retail consumers and an equivalent amount is being sold through open tenders for bulk consumers.

In the next two weeks, the government would announce the price to be paid to farmers for wheat next year, Pawar said. The minister also indicated that the government was in no hurry to slap an import tax on crude vegetable oils as the price of oilseeds was high. India has banned the export of wheat, non-basmati rice and edible oil after dwindling stocks around the world pushed prices up, prompting many countries to clamp down on shipments. But a record wheat harvest in 2008 and expectations of an even bigger crop in 2009, as well as a bumper crop of rice and oilseed, has encouraged the government to lessen some control.