New Delhi: India, a traditional rice
exporter, will import the grain for the first time in 20 years
to meet a projected shortfall of the crop hit by drought and
floods, government said on Wednesday.
"We started rice season that is from October 2009 with
almost six million tonnes of surplus... Still there is a
projection that there is some shortfall of Kharif crops. So to
make it up, we have to make some imports," Finance Minister
Pranab Mukherjee said just two days ahead of the ministerial
meeting to review foodgrain stocks and prices.
Mukherjee, who heads the Empowered Group of Ministers on
foodgrains, however, did not reveal the quantum and the
timing of imports.
"Exactly what quantum and at what time, I can`t say," he
said on the sidelines of a Union Bank of India function here.
The government estimates that there would be a shortfall
of over 15 million tonnes in the 2009-10 Kharif (summer)
season due to drought and floods in several states.
According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA),
India, the second largest rice producer in the world, may
import as much as 2,00,000 tonnes of rice if there is greater
price parity to meet domestic demand.
Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma, who is a
member of the EGoM, said yesterday that the government was in
talks with top rice-exporting countries like Thailand for
buying the staple grain without involving the private traders.