Farmers’ lobby meets Nirmala Sitharaman ahead of Budget, urges to lift export bans on key agri products

Image Source : X/UNIONFINANCEMINISTERY Representatives of farmer associations and agricultural experts met with Union Finance Nirmala Sitharaman in New Delhi.

Ahead of the upcoming Union Budget, representatives of farmer associations and agricultural experts met with Union Finance Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday in New Delhi. The focus of the discussion was the removal of export restrictions on various agricultural commodities, advocated strongly by the farming community. The meeting, which lasted for two hours, was also attended by Union Minister of State for Finance, Pankaj Chaudhary, the Finance Secretary, and senior officials from the Ministry of Agriculture. MJ Khan, Chairman of the Indian Chambers of Food and Agriculture, underscored the urgency of lifting these bans during the deliberations.

India’s agriculture export challenges and solutions

“Our agri-export share is only 2 per cent in global agri exports. Due to the ban on some agricultural products, our exports have fallen. India faces a USD 4 billion cut in agricultural exports due to trade restrictions on staples like wheat, rice, and sugar. We need to avoid knee-jerk reactions and focus on creating export hubs,” Khan said. Agricultural economist and distinguished professor at ICRIER Ashok Gulati highlighted the surplus in rice stocks held by the Food Corporation of India (FCI), suggesting that opening up rice exports should be prioritised. He also stressed the need to lift the ban on onion exports immediately. Badri Narain Chaudhary, President of the Bhartiya Kisan Sangh, called for a long-term agricultural policy and improved data collection in the agriculture sector.

“We don’t have any agriculture policy. The government should start collecting data on the agriculture sector,” he said. According to the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), there has been a noteworthy 9 per cent decline in exports under its ambit. The export bans undertaken by the Government of India aim to balance consumer affordability and support the agricultural industry amidst rising retail prices.

Government curbs agricultural exports to control prices

Compelled by escalating retail prices of key agricultural products such as rice, wheat, sugar, and onion, the government implemented measures to curb the upward trend. In a pivotal move in July 2023, exports of all non-basmati white rice were prohibited to address concerns related to rising prices. Additionally, a 20 per cent duty on parboiled rice exports was introduced, initially until October 2023. Recognizing the ongoing need for stabilization, this duty was extended to March 2024. These interventions were designed to strike a balance between ensuring affordability for consumers and supporting the agricultural industry.

(With ANI inputs)

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