Lamenting that the on-off export and import policy of farm products is harming India’s perception as a reliable global trading partner, agriculture minister Sharad Pawar today said that the government is working on long-term export and import policy for farm products.
The policy which Pawar said would basically merge the interest of the farming community with meeting domestic demands is being discussed among all concerned ministries.
“In the last few years, we have tried to maintain a consistent export and import policy with regards to rice and wheat and will like to continue the same in the coming years as well in other crops,” Pawar said while addressing the annual Economic Editors’ Conference.
Pawar who also heads the Group of Ministers (GoM) on the Land Acquistion Bill said that no farm land would be allowed to be acquired for non-farm purposes as rising demand is putting pressure on agriculture. "We will ensure that acquisition of high yielding farm land is not allowed for non-agriculture purpose. This is a serious issue and the government is concerned about it. In only exceptional cases, permission should be given for acquiring some agriculture land, otherwise permission should not be given," he said. The minister’s remarks come a day after an EGoM meeting, which remained inconclusive due to differences among members with regard to certain clauses including those on retrospective. He said as part of the policy unrestricted import should be allowed at the time of domestic shortage of any food commodity, while free exports should be allowed at time of surplus.
Later, talking to some reporters, food minister K. V. Thomas, whose ministry is directly involved in the process of formulation said that some sort of cap on export or import or fixing the minimum amount is being thought of. Officials said the food minister is slated to meet agriculture minister Sharad Pawar and his counterpart in Commerce, Anand Sharma to discuss the draft policy for consistency in farm exports. Meanwhile, replying to another question, Pawar said farm land should be acquired for public purpose by the government only in exceptional cases. Pawar, who heads the Empowered Group of Ministers on Land acquisition bill, said the agriculture ministry is of the view that multi-cropped land and land with at least one assured crop should not be acquired for public purposes. “We will ensure that the draft bill which will be finalized in the next few days would have clause to prevent such acquisitions,” Pawar said. The minister’s remarks come a day after an EGoM meeting, which remained inconclusive due to differences among members with regard to certain clauses including those on retrospective.
Pawar also said sugar production in 2012-2013 crop marketing season is expected to be around 23.5-24 million tonnes, while the country would export around 8-9 million tonnes of rice during the same period slightly less than last year's almost 10 million tonnes export. On foodgrains production in 2012-2013, the agriculture minister said that foodgrains production in 2012-13 will be lower than last year's record output of 257.44 million tonnes but availability would be sufficient to meet domestic demand. Last month, the Agriculture Ministry had projected 10% fall in kharif foodgrains production at 117.18 million tonnes in view of poor rains and drought in more than 360 taluks in Karnataka, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Gujarat. The minister also said that the empowered group of minister (eGoM) on drought which is headed by Pawar would decide to grant any farm loan debt waiver or relief as and when the emergency arises. “I feel that late revival of rains will help us in recouping some of the losses suffered in kharif and we will all things needed to salvage the situation,” Pawar said.