Food Subsidy to touch Rs 50,000 crore during 2008-09: Pawar

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New Delhi, Nov 26 (UNI) The food subsidy bill during 2008-09 is expected to touch Rs 50,000 crore against the budgeted provision of Rs 34,000 for the financial year, Agriculture, Food and Public Distribution Minister Sharad Pawar said here today.

The offtake percentage of foodgrains against the allocation from the Central Pool by the targeted Public Distribution System beneficiaries have shown an increase from 54.53 to 84.77 in 2007-08, up from 316.39 lakh tonnes to 335.26 lakh tonens, he informed the Economic Editors' Conference here.

Mr Pawar ruled out lifting of ban on export of non-basmati rice and wheat saying the government was committed to provide food at affordable prices to the consumers as well as to keep down the inflation.

However, he said, the government would export some quantity of wheat to Afghanistan as per the requirement of the latter.

The Minister also made it clear that the duty of Rs 8000 per tonnes on export of basamti rice would also continue. But to help the farmers, the government has already declared the Pusa 1121 rice as basmati, he added.

The government, he announced , had no intention to impose import duty on palm oil, hitherto import allowed on zero duty, since there was a bigger gap of 84 lakh tonnes between the domestic production and consumption.

Mr Pawar said the Centre had asked the Rajasthan government to make arrangements for market intervention to procure bajra at Minimum Support Price (MSP) as the market price of the commodity had gone down causing distress to the farmers. The Central Government would reimburse the ammount spent by the state agency to provide MSP for bajra.

However, he ruled price support to the soyabean farmers saying that the prices of the commodity were down but still above the MSP.

For cotton, the Centre has asked the Cotton Corporation of India (CCI) to make purchases in bigger way as there is no private trade in market because of higher raw cotton prices in the global market.

But the cotton import in India is likely to pick up since the domestic prices are higher, because of higher MSP for the commodity.There is zero duty on cotton imports now and the government has no intention to impose any duty on cotton imports.

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