Agriculture minister Sharad Pawar today hinted at reopening the export market for select commodities such as non-basmati rice, sugar and onion in order to protect the interests of the farming community.
Pawar favoured a more liberal approach to food exports especially in the context of bumper production estimates this year,
"Generally we feel, we should take a total liberalised approach on export of certain items," Pawar said, adding, "Farmers are raising concern that prices of some commodities are going down."
He cited the case of onion whose prices have crashed to Rs2 a kg levels from the highs of Rs70 per kg hit only last month.
He said these farmers should be helped to recover at least their cultivation cost and for that "if limited export is allowed and I think that will resolve the farmers' problem."
Wholesale prices of onion are reported to have plummeted to Rs2 levels in Nashik in Maharasthra, one of the biggest grower of the bulb in India.
Pawar, however, said onion production would be less this year compared with last year. This would still be sufficient to meet the country's requirement, he added.
Onion production in the country is likely to be lower at 12.2 million tones in 2010-11, against 13.6 million tonnes last year, he added.
"A situation may arise that onion export could be allowed with some cap on quantity."
He also voiced concern at the falling prices of sugar amid hopes of higher sugar production. Pawar said with rising stocks and falling prices of sugar, mills have voiced "apprehension that cane arrears might rise."
With a record cereal crop estimated in the current year, Pawar also favoured export of rice and wheat, "We should take a view on export of certain varieties of non-basmati rice like "matta rice" and "sona masuri," the minister said.
These varieties can fetch higher prices in the global market, he said, adding that the panel of ministers should take a final decision on it.