Export floor price of Rs 20,000 may help meet procurement target
THE BROUHAHA over rice export ban is important, at this juncture, primarily since it is threatening to impinge on the central government’s purchases of the grain for its PDS and welfare schemes and affect attempts to beef up the buffer for food security. With apprehensions persisting over whether the procurement target of paddy/rice for the central pool — pegged at 276 lakh tonne (lt)— will actually be met in the face of poor mandi arrivals and, consequently, poor government buys in Punjab and Haryana, the food ministry expects that its purpose will be served to an extent if the minimum export price (MEP) for rice is fixed at Rs 20,000/tonne or over. “The question is really not to ban exports or not. If the MEP for rice is fixed at Rs 20,000 or so, that will help us meet our procurement target better for the PDS and welfare schemes. The food ministry has no problems over letting high value rice being exported,” government sources asserted. Out of the total of around 4.7-5 million tonne (mt) of high value rice exported, it is projected that pegging the MEP high will ensure that around 20-30 lakh tonnes of rice will be knocked off exports. Secretary Nand Kumar is expected to tour FCI and other state agency mandis in key procurement state Punjab on Wednesday. Some 10.41 lt of basmati rice was exported by India in 2006-07, earning Rs 2,778.31 crore-odd. Non-basmati rice sold 37.05 lt but earned a far higher Rs 4,257.88 crore for exports, indicating why exporters are sore over the export ban on this quality of rice. That the food ministry’s projections of quantum gains in grain purchase would accrue as a result of the export ban was evident in the immediate aftermath of the announcement on October 9, and since. Non-basmati rice is currently selling at Rs 11/kg, lower that the Rs 13-odd/kg it sold at earlier. In fact, soon after the export ban was announced, the price of one premium non-Basmati variety, Pusa 1121, plunged from a high of Rs 2,040/qtl to as low as Rs 1,900/qtl.