Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Monday, Jul 08, 2002
Agri-Biz & Commodities
Exports & Imports
Grain exports may top 100 lakh t
NEW DELHI, July 7
EXPORTS of foodgrains from the Food Corporation of India's (FCI) stocks are likely to cross 100 lakh tonnes (lt) in the current fiscal.
According to the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, a total quantity of 21.80 lt has been already been lifted by exporters from FCI godowns during April-May, including 14.34 lt of rice and 7.46 lt of wheat. At this rate, foodgrain exports of 100 lt or more for the entire fiscal does not seem a tall order.
During 2000-01 and 2001-02, foodgrain exports from the central pool totalled 16.84 lt and 46.85 lt. For the current fiscal, the Government has set an ambitious target of exporting 150 lt of foodgrains from FCI's stocks, of which 100 lt is to be accounted for by wheat and the rest by rice.
"Going by the trends in the first two months, we can certainly expect exports to double during this year,'' officials said. But significantly, unlike in the last two years, the surge in exports this year is being mainly led by rice. This is being largely attributed to FCI's competitive pricing policy, with raw rice being supplied to exporters at Rs 5,760 per tonne (around $118) and par-boiled rice at Rs 6,115 per tonne ($125).
As a result, Indian rice (with 25 per cent brokens) is being offered at about $136 per tonne free-on-board (f.o.b), compared to the corresponding quotes of $163 per tonne from Vietnam and $180 per tonne from Thailand. Even par-boiled rice (5 per cent brokens) is being offered for as low as $170 per tonne f.o.b.
The same is not the case with wheat, where FCI is offloading at Rs 4,310 per tonne ($ 89 per tonne). Considering that the f.o.b price is $ 96-97 per tonne, exporters are making a net margin of hardly $1-2 per tonne on wheat. "Wheat exports are being undertaken mainly by a handful of large trading houses who are handling large volumes. The margins are much higher in rice,'' traders pointed out.
The Government is placing its hopes on exports to pare its huge stockpile of foodgrains. The accompanying Table shows that of the total foodgrain offtake of 312.96 lt from the central pool during 2001-02, almost a third was due to lifting by exporters (46.85 lt) and domestic roller flour mills (55.98 lt) under FCI's `open sale' scheme.
On the other hand, there was only a marginal increase in offtake under the regular targeted public distribution system (TPDS). The other major offtake category comprised the assorted special welfare schemes Sampoorna Grameen Rozgar Yojana, Food for Work, Mid-day meals and assorted disaster relief programmes that consumed another 71 lt.
During April-May 2002, the share of exports in aggregate offtake of 61.07 lt (40.19 lt rice and 20.88 lt wheat) has been nearly 36 per cent. In fact, the quantum of rice exports, at 14.34 lt, has been higher than the corresponding offtake of 10.16 lt and 2.80 lt under the below poverty line (BPL) and above poverty line (APL) heads, respectively. Similarly, in wheat, exports (7.46 lt) have been higher than the corresponding BPL and APL offtake figures of 4.54 lt and 2.44 lt, respectively.
Officials say that if exports cross the 100 lt mark this year, the total offtake during 2002-03 would easily touch 350 lt, which would keep FCI's stocks within manageable limits. As on June 1, 2002, foodgrain inventories in the central pool totalled 648.30 lt, including 413.17 lt of wheat and 234.01 lt of rice. Although these are higher than the corresponding June 1, 2001 levels of 607.01 lt (375.47 lt wheat and 228.61 lt rice), there is no danger of stocks accumulating beyond 750 lt, as it was being feared till recently.
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