Siraj Hussain says achieving the $100 billion target requires a consistent agricultural export policy.

On the overall impact of export restrictions, former Agriculture and Food Processing Union secretary Siraj Hussain, who is also the former CMD of Food Corporation of India (FCI), said in an interview that high food prices are hurting small and marginal farmers. are net buyers of food. Excerpts:

Is the current restriction on agricultural exports an election-induced temporary phase or a permanent one-door calibrated export?

The restrictions imposed by the government were triggered by the exceptionally hot February of 2022, which caused a decrease in wheat production. This forced the government to ban wheat exports on May 13, 2022. Since then, erratic monsoons in 2022 and 2023 have reduced production of various crops, including pulses, rice and sugarcane. Therefore, it cannot be said that the restrictions set by the government are only due to the April 2024 parliamentary elections in May.

How does this affect the long-term export policy of one-door through NCEL?

I don’t think NCEL alone can export the entire agricultural export volume of India. Currently, exports are restricted due to diplomatic reasons and only NCEL has given export approval to the government. When normal production levels of wheat, rice and sugarcane are reached, private companies must receive an export permit. In any case, NCEL lacks knowledge and experience in global business. It would use private business as subcontractors.

Are farmers getting better prices because of export restrictions? Why and how?

It is true that export restrictions and bans suppress domestic prices and therefore harm surplus farmers. However, we must remember that India has a large number of small and marginal farmers who are net buyers of food. That is why high foods are harmful to them. The government must accurately balance the interests of producers and consumers. Most important is the predictability of government policy regarding the export and use of essential goods. Unfortunately it is missing.

What are the options for farmers who grow certain crops for export and then get banned?

In many parts of India, farmers have diversified into horticultural crops. For example, in Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra, banana cultivation has increased considerably. Encouraging the export of garden products requires much larger investments in logistics. It hasn’t really taken off yet, so the prices are very different. Currently, farmers in Punjab are noticing low prices compared to previous years.

Does India export $100 billion worth of agriculture?

India has varied agro-climatic zones which enable the country to grow a variety of crops from cereals to horticulture and plantations etc. Indian producers can also become competitive in poultry and buffalo meat exports. To reach 100 billion dollars in exports, we need a consistent export policy and a modern logistics infrastructure. The government must take the lead here by giving subsidies to APMCs to set up the necessary facilities so that the quality of export-oriented products does not deteriorate.

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