New Delhi: The government may consider more non-basmati rice exports in addition to one million tonnes already approved, Food Minister K V Thomas said on Wednesday, as part of its efforts to trim bulging stocks.
India, the world's second-biggest rice producer, eased a 2008 ban in July with the first exports allowed since that clampdown to bolster domestic supplies.
But a court ordered suspension of the exports after some traders said the procedure of allocation of quotas for overseas sales by the government to 82 private rice millers was faulty. The court is likely to take up the case again on Sept.
"We have received several proposals for allowing exports from states like Andhra Pradesh where production was more than expectations," Thomas told reporters.
On Friday, Thomas said the next meeting of a panel of ministers on food could take up the issue of permitting more exports. The panel is empowered to implement its decisions without needing cabinet approval.
In its latest forecast, the farm ministry has estimated 2010/11 rice output at 95.32 million tonnes, up from 89.09 million tonnes in the previous year and against consumption which averages around 90 million tonnes a year.
Aug 1 rice stocks at government warehouses were at 25.27 million tonnes against a target of 9.8 million tonnes.
Indian exports will be just a drop in the ocean, as top suppliers Thailand and Vietnam are together expected to ship out around 17 million tonnes of the staple.
But traders believe India will be able to capitalise on the global demand for rice.
"Unlike wheat or sugar, there are so many rice varieties and there is a good deal of global demand for several grades of Indian rice. Our bio-diversity will help sell many premium non-basmati varieties," said Vijay Setia, president of the All India Rice Exporters' Association.
Thomas also said the introduction of the proposed Food Security Bill, a poll promise of the government to give more cheaper grains to the poor, had been deferred to the next winter session of parliament.
"We will be able to introduce the bill in the next session of parliament as the process of consultation with state governments and different ministries is still on," he said.
The panel of ministers has already approved a draft of the Food Security bill, which now has to be ratified by parliament to become law. It would need about 61 million tonnes of grains a year, the bulk of which would be wheat and rice.
First Published: Wednesday, August 17, 2011, 16:24