Grain exports: decision likely after EGoM meet next week

An Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) on food issues is likely to meet on 11 or 12 July to consider the food security bill and allowing grain exports, union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar said on Tuesday.

The EGoM is expected to assess the recommendations of the National Advisory Council headed by Congress president Sonia Gandhi and those proposed by the food ministry to come to a decision.

The NAC and others in the government feel that the availability of grains would have to be increased if the majority of the below-poverty line (BPL) population is to be covered, as envisaged in the bill. For this, export curbs would have to continue.

Pawar made it clear that his ministry was not pushing for grain exports, as was earlier reported.

Last week, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reviewed the food security bill along with food minister K V Thomas and Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, ahead of the EGoM meeting.

The government feels procurement of foodgrains would have to be increased from 55 million tonnes to 65 million tonnes if 75 per cent of the BPL population is to be covered, under the bill, which would push up the subsidy burden to about Rs100,000 crore.