Saturday, November 14, 2009

Govt in discreet talks with 3 nations to import rice

Press Trust of India

Sunday, December 13, 2009 (New Delhi)

Notwithstanding the government's assertion that it has no immediate plan to import rice, it is understood to be in talks with a few rice-surplus countries to source the grain through the state channels.

"We are talking to three countries, including Thailand and Vietnam. Our holdings are not adequate, we have to import," a senior government official said.

While, Commerce Minister Anand Sharma said on November 17 that the government was in touch with a few countries for rice imports, he announced on November 20, after a meeting of the empowered group of ministers that there would be no imports.

The eGoM, headed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, had also decided to scrap the three import tenders, floated by MMTC, STC and PEC after the bids had quoted very high prices.

Sources said the government made it public not to import the grain since it became wary of global prices shooting up in the backdrop of the poor harvest, to the extent of 15 million tonne, in Kharif due to the drought situations.

However, the officials said the country must build reserves as "we do not have holdings".

It is understood that even the government-to-government talks between India and few other countries are being kept under a wrap, to avoid a further price spiral.

While Minister of State for Commerce Jyotiraditya Scindia told the Lok Sabha of no plan to import rice, he indicated the possibility of doing the same. "However, if the trend of procurement shows shortfall, the government may, at an appropriate time, decide to consider import of rice to ensure availability of rice in the domestic market...," he said.