Food ministry opposes the move due to food security concerns and high inflation.
The ministry of agriculture has recommended allowing export of three-five million tonnes (mt) of rice, following a bumper crop this year. This is based on the recommendation of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) in its report on minimum support price (MSP) for kharif crops.
“The buffer stock of foodgrain is around 65 mt as against a desired level of 30-35 mt,” official sources said. The country banned shipments of wheat in early 2007 and non-basmati rice in April 2008 to bolster domestic supplies. The central pool collected a total foodgrain stock (wheat and rice) of 65.6 mt in June this year, almost triple the quantity collected five years ago, according to the Food Corporation of India (FCI).
The agriculture ministry increased MSP of common variety of raw rice to an all-time high of Rs 1,080 a quintal and an additional bonus of Rs 80 a quintal. Due to high inflationary condition, MSP for paddy was also fixed at Rs 1,080 per quintal, up from Rs 1,000 a quintal last year. The ministry has decided to declare bonus only if prices fall in the domestic market due to surplus existing stock and the government will not allow non-basmati rice exports, officials said.
The food and consumer affairs ministry on the other hand, has opposed the recommendation for export due to food security and high inflation. The government needs 70 mt of rice and wheat to meet demands of the proposed Food Security Act, under which the Centre plans to give legal rights on subsidised food to about 70 per cent of the country’s population.
In February, expecting a record rice production and surplus stocks with FCI, the government partially rolled back the ban on non-basmati rice exports. It allowed export of up to 150,000 tonnes of three varieties of non-basmati rice. These varieties are ponni, rosematta and sona masuri, grown in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. Before the rice export ban in 2008, the country used to export around Rs 8,000 crore worth of non-basmati rice annually.
A study on aromatic short grain rice prepared by the Indian Agricultural Research Institute and the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority has identified varieties such as kalanamak, tilakchandan and jeerabati (UP), kala jeera (Orissa), katrani ( Bihar), ambemohar (Maharashtra), govindbhog and badshahbhog (West Bengal), dubraj, badshahbhog and jawaphool (Chhattisgarh) and kala joha (Assam) which could be harnessed and developed for their export potential.