India has called off exports of foodgrains under government-to-government agreements to shore up its food security, expecting farm output to dip due to low monsoon this year.
The country has massive foodgrains stocks because of an existing ban on overseas sales of wheat and non-basmati rice exports. However, the ban so far exempted export of limited quantities committed as part of diplomatic deals.
For instance, India contributed 1,53,200 tonnes of foodgrains for the SAARC Food Bank during 2008-09.
“We export some 2 million tonnes of wheat through diplomatic channels. We will stop even that. The situation may improve but we do not want to take any risks when the question of food security of our own country is involved,” Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said in the Rajya Sabha on Friday.
“We have sufficient stocks of rice and wheat to meet any shortage,” he said, replying to a debate on the impact of patchy rains on agriculture.
India produced 233.88 million tonnes of foodgrains, slightly more than the government’s production target for 2008-09, with both rice and wheat leading the surge. Experts hope this would make good a likely drop in kharif or summer-sown crops because of low monsoon.
Pawar said the net sown area or total area under paddy had shrunk to 114.63 lakh hectares on July 16, compared to 145.21 lakh hectares last year, a drop of 21 per cent.
The southwest monsoon, key to India’s farm output, remains uneven and was 19 per cent deficient as on July 23, he said.
Planting of rice, soybeans and sugar cane is lagging behind last year’s levels because of inadequate showers, but the sowing areas were near normal for cotton, jowar, maize, pulses and oilseeds, the minister said.