Non-basmati rice export faces ministerial disagreements

Written by Press Trust of India | New Delhi | Updated: Jun 28 2009, 04:19am hrs
Inter-ministerial differences have cropped up on lifting of ban on non-basmati rice exports in the wake of delayed monsoon and large requirement of foodgrains for providing food security to the poor.

The agriculture ministry is opposed to any bold measure on opening exports of rice, but the commerce ministry is pushing for lifting the 15-month old ban restricting the shipments to expensive grain.

The commerce ministry will soon send the proposal to allow export of non-basmati rice, fixing minimum export price (MEP) of $1,100 per tonne. By fixing an MEP of $ 1,100 per tonne, we can ensure export of premium varieties of non-basmati rice, a senior ministry official said on Friday.

However, agriculture secretary T Nanda Kumar opposed lifting of ban on exports of non-basmati rice and wheat saying the decision should wait till sowing is over. We should be careful in allowing exports now. The decision on allowing exports should wait till the planting of kharif crops is completed, Kumar said on Thursday.

Earlier, food and agriculture minister Sharad Pawar had also disfavoured allowing exports of rice and wheat for now as he wanted sufficient stock for the proposed scheme to provide foodgrains at Rs 3 per kg for the poor under the law.

However, the issue may be resolved by a group of ministers, expected to be formed soon. The decision was earlier deferred by the Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM)in the previous UPA government. If the government allows export via MEP, only a few non-basmati varieties would be shipped as the premium basmati export has an MEP of $1,100 a tonne.