24 July : As contingent measures to deal with the deficient rainfall, the Centre on Friday said it will stop all exports of non-Basmati rice and wheat, and bear half of the subsidy on diesel offered to farmers by the states.
These decisions were announced by Food and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar in the Rajya Sabha, a day after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his cabinet colleagues were briefed on the monsoon situation and Kharif sowing.
Allaying fears of shortage of foodgrains, Pawar said, “Stock position is quite comfortable. We have sufficient stock position for 13 months in our kitty”.
While Pawar was worried over runaway rise in prices of Arhar dal to Rs 95-100 a kg, he said “this will be a temporary phenomenon”. A financial support for states is under consideration to help in this regard.
However, he did not disclose the import strategy as it could impact global prices.Elaborating the measures to tide over the situation, Pawar said exports of non-Basmati rice and wheat which was allowed through diplomatic channel would be completely banned.
“We are going to stop it. We will take the financial burden,” he said, replying to a Calling Attention Notice.Centre will also consider how loans taken by farmers can be rescheduled, he said, adding “We are going to extend some concessions or other facilities. We will take decision. We will not take any coercive method for loan recovery”.
The Centre would also bear 50 per cent of the subsidy on diesel given by Bihar to farmers, Pawar said, adding that it would extend similar help to other states.
While the Centre had banned exports of non-Basmati rice and wheat in view of high prices, it had allowed limited exports through diplomatic channels. In the meantime, the allegations of scam in rice exports have come to the fore.
On the demand for fuel subsidy to farmers, Pawar said he has received a proposal from Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar asking the Centre to bear 50 percent of the concession being given by the state government.
“We will take a minimum 50 per cent responsibility which Bihar has taken,” he said, adding that if other states come forward the same level of support will be available to them.
On the progress of rains, Pawar said, “Monsoon this year has been weak and erratic in its progress and distribution resulting in late sowing of crops”.
He said Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Punjab, Haryana, Assam, Manipur and parts of some other states are likely to be affected by the deficient rainfall.
Stating that rainfall deficiency has come down to 19 per cent as on on Thursday from 62 per cent in June, he said, “This week the situation will further improve. There is change. Change is for better. Today there is substantial improvement”.
He said the situation has not improved in North-West and North-East regions and UP and Bihar. “Contingency plans are getting operationalised in the areas where dry spell is getting prolonged”.