By Bansy Kalappa
The Karnataka government, which had in its manifesto assured that it would provide 5kg additional rice (apart from 5kg given by the Union government) to each family, is struggling to keep the promise. The latest challenge is the green signal for non-basmati rice exports to a limited number of countries.
There is concern that this will put pressure on the existing stock, and the price of rice will go up. Prices are already much higher now compared to prices in May. As a consequence, Karnataka could find it more difficult to procure rice at FCI rates.
Ever since the Congress government took charge in May, Karnataka has faced one hurdle or another in fulfilling its rice promise. The challenges were insurmountable and the government had no recourse but to give the people cash equivalent of the cost of rice.
Asked about the removal of the ban on exports of non-basmati rice, FKCCI’s Ramesh Chandra Lahoti said, “Where is the crop for export? Large parts of the south are reeling under drought or semi-drought conditions. Karnataka otherwise is a significant contributor to overall national rice production, but due to insufficient rain this season, there is a shortfall in production across large areas.”
Experts have forecast that rice production in many areas is going to be a mere 50 per cent of the annual average kharif output. Right from Mysuru to Davangere, the large southern belt, there is a serious shortage of rice production. Only where there is extensive irrigation facility will the output be good, in other places the crop is bound to be poor.
Experts who did not wish to be named said, “The export of rice is rice diplomacy and nothing to worry about. It is a policy decision of the Union government and is not connected to the Karnataka situation. These are exports for diplomacy with countries in dire need and is from the Government of India to other countries.
For such exports, there is reserve stock and the government will use this reserve stock. Just because the Karnataka government has promised rice, the Union government cannot give up rice diplomacy. Talking of food diplomacy, we sent a huge amount of wheat to Afghanistan because they needed it. They cannot be faulted for it.’’
Former FCI chairman D V Prasad said, ‘’It will not be a burden on Karnataka. It is a very limited quantity of about 7 lakh tonnes to be exported through government-approved channels and will not impact the state’s requirement for an additional 5kg rice.”
This article has been republished from The New Indian Express