Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Saturday, May 29, 2004
Agri-Biz & Commodities
Industry & Economy - Exports & Imports
Pawar rules out grains export, sugar imports
The Union Minister for Food and Agriculture, Mr Sharad Pawar, addressing the press in the Capital on Friday. Ramesh Sharma
New Delhi , May 28
THE Union Food and Agriculture Minister, Mr Sharad Pawar, has ruled out possibility of export of food grains from the Food Corporation of India's (FCI) stocks or the need to import sugar now.
In his first official media interaction here today, Mr Pawar said the country was likely to have a total grain stock of 33 million tonnes (mt), comprising 20 mt of wheat and 13 mt of rice, as on July 1, against the normative minimum buffer of 24.3 mt (14.3 mt wheat and 10 mt rice) required till that date.
"The stocks position is comfortable to meet the country's requirements. I would not like to take any decision on exports, till a clear picture regarding the progress of the monsoon emerges," Mr Pawar said.
In the case of sugar too, the minister noted that the stocks position was, as of now, comfortable, despite the output in the current (2003-04) season (October-September) falling due to severe drought in States like Maharashtra and Karnataka.
According to Mr Pawar, the shortfall in these States would be partially compensated by increased production from Uttar Pradesh.
"I don't think the situation will arise for import of sugar to meet domestic requirements. There has been a demand by some mills to import raw sugar so that they can run their factories and meet administrative expenses and fixed overheads. We can probably consider their demand provided the raw sugar is processed for export, though no decision has been taken on this count," he added.
Mr Pawar said he would convene meetings with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) soon to restructure bank loans to sugar mills and cane growers.
"In Maharashtra alone, 60 out of the 140 sugar factories were shut last seasons, which is likely to go up to 100 this year, because they have no cane to crush.
``They have also run into problem of short margins and huge outstanding short-term loans, which they want to convert into 3-5 year long-term loans.
``A similar restructuring at the farmers' level is also necessary so that they can avail of credit to purchase seeds and fertilisers and plant cane during the coming season," the minister said.
Mr Pawar said he was happy to be holding charge of both the Agriculture and Food portfolios, "as this is the first time since the Bharat Ratna, Mr C Subramaniam, that someone has been entrusted with the two ministries".
Significantly, Mr Pawar addressed today's press conference on his own, without any secretary or bureaucrat by his side.
"This is a sector that is truly large and I hope to do something that would make a difference, based on my own experience in the field," he added.
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