M A I N   N E W S

Within days, govt forced to lift ban on cotton exports
* Pawar had objected to March 5 decision
* Move to benefit Malwa
Ashok Tuteja & SP Sharma/TNS

New Delhi/Bathinda, March 11
The government today decided to lift the ban on cotton exports following widespread criticism of the move, even by some of its key allies. “Keeping in view the facts, the interests of farmers, traders and industrialists, a balanced view has been taken to roll back the ban on cotton exports,” Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said. The formal order to lift the ban will be issued tomorrow.

On March 5, the Commerce Ministry had imposed the ban on cotton exports, which had come under fire from the states of Punjab, Gujarat and Maharashtra as well as Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar. It had said that the country had already shipped 10 lakh bales more than the exportable surplus and that had reduced domestic availability.

Objecting to the ban, Pawar, who heads the Nationalist Congress Party — a coalition partner in the UPA government — had said, “They (Commerce and Textiles ministries) kept me in the dark. I came to know about this only after a notification was issued by the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT).” Sharma had yesterday held talks with Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Sharad Pawar on the directions of the Prime Minister to review his ministry's decision to ban cotton exports.

The Centre’s decision is expected to benefit farmers of Punjab’s Malwa belt. They had suffered big losses this season with their produce sold at almost half the price of what it saw last year. Last year, farmers had sold their produce at Rs 7,200 a quintal last year as against Rs 4,100-Rs 4,200 a quintal this season.

The decision to lift the ban has also given cotton traders reason to cheer. They hope that cotton price might witness a quantum jump once export begins. However, the yarn industry is jittery. It fears a jump in cotton prices once exports begin and has sought incentives.

Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ugrahan) district chief Shingara Singh Mann said small farmers would have benefited had the ban been lifted earlier. “The ban should have been lifted earlier. Marketing of cotton is at its fag end. Now, only large farmers who held back their produce would benefit,” he said.

The Punjab Government had written to the Prime Minister, urging him to lift the ban on cotton export. MPs from Gujarat had met the Prime Minister and also called on Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma today to discuss the ban. Apart from Punjab, Gujarat and Maharashtra are the country’s main cotton-producing states. According to the Commerce Ministry, higher exports than anticipated in cotton season 2010-11 reduced the expected carryover of stock for the current cotton season 2011-12, from 48.3 lakh bales estimated by the Cotton Advisory Board to about 33 lakh bales. At the same time, production this season was virtually the same as last year's, and total supply marginally lower.

"Availability has reduced to less than the production levels of 2009-10 and also reduced the carry forward figure below the advisable inventory level," the ministry said in a statement. "Almost 94 lakh bales have already been shipped out, against an estimated export surplus of 84 lakh bales," it added.





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