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Sharad waits for Atal date on cane price
Sharad Yadav

New Delhi, June 4: Union food minister Sharad Yadav will soon meet Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to discuss ways of breaking the impasse over sugarcane pricing in Uttar Pradesh.

“The UP cane price issue is still being deliberated upon. Nothing has been finalised. As soon as I get an appointment with the Prime Minister, I will meet him,” Yadav said here today.

The meeting, when it takes place, would try to arrive at a decision on providing assistance to sugarcane growers in the heartland state, the minister added. He also said he would meet Union agriculture minister Rajnath Singh to discuss the problem of sugarcane pricing.

While the Uttar Pradesh government has fixed the price at Rs 95 per quintal, mill owners are paying around Rs 83 per quintal based on the recovery of sugar from the cane and which includes the Rs 4 a quintal concession given by the state government.

The Central government’s efforts are aimed at bridging this Rs 12 per quintal gap in the cane price, Yadav said.

The minister said sugarcane pricing is a sensitive issue and the views of the finance ministry also needs to be taken before arriving at any decision.

The government has created a buffer stock of 20 lakh tonnes of sugar. The proceeds from the purchase, he added, has helped mill owners to pay cane arrears to the extent of Rs 786 crore.

The President has approved the amendment to the Essential Commodities Act allowing the government to improve the effectiveness of the mechanism governing sugar releases from mills.

Sugar production has been consistently high in the last four seasons, which has resulted in the sugar industry carrying increasingly large stocks. The carryover stocks from the year 2001-02 are around 102 lakh tonnes.

Yadav said he would also take up the issue of streamlining the public distribution system after his meeting with the Prime Minister.

Low offtake by the states is an ongoing problem that is plaguing the public distribution system.

Yadav told reporters that the government was formulating a new policy on the export of foodgrain to ensure India’s long-term presence in the world market.

India’s total export offtake from government granaries in the 2002-03 fiscal was estimated at 122 lakh tonnes, including 69.35 and 52.68 lakh tonnes of rice and wheat, respectively.

“There has been some effect on exports due to shortage of rakes. However, the government is working on a new policy to be announced shortly which will remove adhocism and make exports sustainable in the long run,” the food minister said.

The new policy will result in simplification of procedures and address exporters’ problems relating to procurement of grains and infrastructure support needed to sell wheat and rice abroad.

Despite the shortage of railway rakes, Yadav said India’s grain export in the last fiscal was much more than the 46 lakh tonnes in 2001-02.

Yadav also said the Food Corporation of India has been directed to dispose of an estimated 10 lakh tonnes of old stocks of wheat within a month. A part of these stocks, procured four to five years ago, can be exported as well, depending on the quality, he added.

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