Non-basmati rice export ban to stay: Pawar

Written by Agencies | Commodities Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: Nov 27 2008, 08:57am hrs
Food and Agriculture minister Sharad Pawar on Wednesday said that the government would continue with the ban on non-basmati rice export and might consider imposing import duty on crude palm oil if oilseeds prices fall below MSP.

He also ruled out reduction in minimum export price (MEP) and export duty imposed on basmati rice and hoped that agriculture growth in 2008-09 will touch 4% for the third consecutive year.

For the next 4-5 months, I do not want to create a situation where wheat and rice prices go up, Pawar told reporters here at the Economic Editors Conference.

The government banned exports of non-basmati rice on March 31 as part of measures to control inflation. On basmati rice, it fixed MEP at $1,200 per tonne and also imposed export duty of Rs 8,000 a tonne.

On imposition of import duties on edible oils, Pawar said, If the (oilseeds) prices fall below minimum support price (MSP), then definitely we will act. He noted that the prices of groundnut in Gujarat and soyabean in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra have come down but are ruling not below MSPs.

The Centre recently imposed 20% import duty on crude soyabean oil, but kept duties on other edible oils unchanged. On March 31, the Centre announced a slew of concessions, including abolition of import duties on crude edible oils and cut duties on refined oils to 7.5%. If the oilseeds prices fall below MSP, the government has two options. First, enter market (by purchasing) to protect farmers interests and secondly withdrawal of concessions given on imports, Pawar said, adding that he has received communication from states like Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh on the issue.

Asked about import of edible oils by the government, the minister said, We will go slow on this because lifting from the states has gone down. In July 2008, the Centre introduced a scheme to sell cooking oils through the public distribution system (PDS) at a subsidy of Rs 15 per kg.