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Updated: July 10, 2011 11:00 IST

Foodgrain exports: EGoM to take call on Monday

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Foodgrains stored at a godown in Vijayawada.
The Hindu
Foodgrains stored at a godown in Vijayawada.

An Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) on food is scheduled to meet on Monday to consider a proposal to export 3 million tonnes of wheat and rice to ease foodgrain storage problems.

The proposal is listed on the agenda of the EGoM, headed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, which is scheduled to meet late afternoon on Monday, sources said.

Besides exports, the EGoM is expected to discuss the draft bill of the proposed National Food Security Act prepared by the Food Ministry, sources said.

The government had banned export of wheat since 2007, and of non-basmati rice from 2008.

Sources said exports of a small quantity of foodgrains could be allowed as the ministry is concerned over managing huge stocks of 65 million tonnes, with the storage space of only 62 million tonnes.

“We have suggested export of 3 million tonnes of wheat and rice. We favour wheat export from private trade, but we want to export non-basmati rice through FCI godowns,” Food Minister K.V. Thomas had said last month.

The ministry has moved the proposal as it dreads loss of foodgrains in few states (like Chhatisgarh, parts of Uttar Pradesh) during the monsoons because some foodgrain is stored in the open. If exports are not allowed, storage problem could aggravate in the current crop year.

On the proposed Food Bill, sources said the EGoM would discuss the draft prepared separately by the ministry and Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council (NAC).

“There are some differences on number of beneficiaries and procurement. The EGoM will discuss and take a decision,” a senior government official said.

The NAC has favoured legal right to subsidised foodgrain for 90 per cent of rural population and 50 per cent of urban population, while the food ministry has favoured the legal coverage for only 75 per cent of rural and 50 per cent of urban families.

The ministry has worked out the draft bill considering the procurement level of 55-60 million tonnes, sources added.

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