India to retain curbs on rice, food item exports

New Delhi, August 4:

India may extend the ban on futures trading in soy oil, rubber, chickpea and potato when it expires next month, and may retain export curbs on non-basmati rice and wheat.

“Prices of commodities remain a concern. It is unlikely that we will relax the ban on futures trade in these four commodities,” Indian commerce secretary GK Pillai told reporters today at press meet on the WTO negotiations.

The comment comes close on the heels of India’s failure at the WTO talks in Geneva to convince the developed world, notably the US, that its farmers need protection.

India plans to export about three million tonnes of non-basmati rice to African countries after November when the export ban period expires. Currently, export of non-basmati rice is banned to ensure its availability in the domestic market and keep a check on inflation, which has since come closer to the 12 percent mark.

“Even if the ban is not fully lifted, we may export two to three million tonnes after

November to some African countries,” Pillai said. “A bumper crop of 94 million tonnes of non-basmati rice is expected in November, of which six million tonnes would be surplus,” he added.

Earlier, on the fringe of the 24th annual meeting of the Central Consumer Protection Council here Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar had hinted that the government was unlikely to “ban or discourage” futures trading in food commodities in the country.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on agriculture, headed by Ram Gopal Yadav, has suggested discouraging futures trading and setting up a regulatory authority for forward market trading on the lines of Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi).

In futures trading, there is usually a contract that is essentially an agreement between two parties to buy or sell an underlying asset at a certain time in the future at a certain price.