M A I N   N E W S

Centre set to allow export of wheat
Bumper crop and persisting storage problems prompt move
Group of ministers will take final decision in coming week
Naveen S Garewal/TNS

Chandigarh, May 19
Grappling with the problem of plenty and an acute shortage of space for storing wheat, the Union Government is all set to allow the export of 4-5 million tonnes of the foodgrain. The Empowered Group of Ministers is expected to take the final decision in the coming week.

The decision to export wheat has been taken following excess wheat production this year, sources told The Tribune. Government agencies have already procured over 31.8 million tonnes of wheat against an estimate of 23.7 million tonnes and have no space to store the new wheat.

Procurement this rabi marketing season is 26 per cent more than that in the last season. While Punjab has so far procured 12.6 million tonnes of wheat, the figure for Haryana stands at 8.4 million tonnes.

Though production is robust this year, there is no storage space to stock the additional wheat procured by the government. The Food Corporation of India (FCI) can store 12 million tonnes of grains. By June, the government would have procured 75 million tonnes of grains as against the country’s total storage capacity of 63 million tonnes. Thus, the need for allowing exports.

Though the government had allowed conditional export of wheat in last September, it had managed to export just 8.5 lakh tonnes of the foodgrain. With international prices remaining low, wheat export from India has not been a viable option. International buyers prefer cheaper wheat from Russia and Australia at Rs 5,400 ($100) per tonne. Indian wheat costs Rs 19,440 ($360) per tonne.

Punjab Food and Supply Minister Adesh Partap Singh Kairon, who spent nearly three weeks in Delhi persuading the Centre to allow wheat export given the storage crisis in wheat-producing states such as Punjab, has been assured of positive action.

Talking to The Tribune, the minister said that three years ago, Punjab had 4.7 million tonnes of wheat in storage, which went up to 6.8 million tonnes before current procurement began.

“If wheat stocks are not cleared, Punjab will have around 10 million tonnes of wheat in storage at the time of the next rabi crop. As it is, the movement of wheat from Punjab to the recipient states is slow at 4 lakh tonnes per month,” he added. 

Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, too, has been reiterating his demand for allowing states to export foodgrain directly. The state has repeatedly been demanding direct control over sale and transfer of foodgrain, currently controlled by the Union Government.

The Chief Minister, in formal and informal conversation with policy makers including senior UPA leaders and member of the Planning Commission, had pleaded the case of Punjab farmers saying they were selling the crop at a cost that has made agriculture non-viable.

“If the government cannot pay the farmers enough in terms of minimum support price (MSP) to make agriculture viable, then states should be allowed to export foodgrain directly to bailout the farmers,” he said.

Recently, Bathinda MP Harsimrat Kaur Badal had raised the storage crisis issue in Parliament, and said that storage of grain costs the Union Government around Rs 27 crore a day, amounting to anywhere between Rs 10,000 crore and 15,000 crore annually. 

Problem of plenty
  • Procurement this rabi marketing season is 26% more than last season
  • The FCI can store 12MT of grain
  • The country’s total foodgrain storage capacity is 63MT
  •   Storage of foodgrain costs the Union Government around `27 crore a day 





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