It will estimate the NAC's and Food Ministry's recommendations and finalise the food security coverage

The Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) is meeting here on July 11 to consider the crucial Food Security Bill and allowing export of foodgrains.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reviewed the Food Security Bill last week along with Union Food Minister K.V. Thomas and Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, ahead of the EGoM meeting which would finalise the coverage of food security.

NAC's suggestion

The National Advisory Council under AICC chief Sonia Gandhi too has made its suggestion on this vital issue. The EGoM will assess the implications of the recommendations made by the NAC and the one proposed by the Food Ministry and arrive at a suitable decision.

The larger the population to be bestowed with the legal right to food security, the higher will be the burden on the government and it will spell greater adversity to the general masses.

The government feels procurement of foodgrains would have to be increased from 55 million tonnes to 65 million tonnes if 75 per cent of the BPL population were to be covered, which would push up the subsidy burden to about Rs. 1 lakh crore.

However, the government regards export as a necessity to effectively use the high agricultural produce and solve the shortage of storage space. The forecast of a good monsoon only spells disaster for the foodgrains stored in the open. That is precisely the reason the Food Ministry has proposed exports of 2 million tonnes of wheat and one million tonnes of non-basmati rice. The EGoM will discuss this at its next meeting.

Pawar's clarification

Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar on Tuesday, however, made it clear that his Ministry was not pushing for exports of foodgrains without the government taking a decision on the Food Security Bill.

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