EGOM to discuss on proposed Food Bill, sugar exports on Mar 17

The PM's panel on the proposed Food Security Bill  headed by PMEAC Chairman C. Rangarajan had differed with the National Advisory Council (NAC) on the issue of sustained availability of such a largesse to the poor.

"EGOM date is fixed for March 17 to discuss the proposed Food Security Bill," a senior government official told PTI.

Besides, the EGoM may also take a decision on allowing export of sugar and extension of the scheme that aims to supply extra 25 lakh tonnes of foodgrains to BPL families, sources said.

According to sources, the Prime Minister's Office wants to fast track the proposed Food bill and has directed the Food Ministry to place the reports prepared by NAC and the Rangarajan Committee before the EGOM to sort out the differences and reach a final view.

The NAC has suggested providing legal entitlement to 75 per cent of the population, which includes both "priority" and "general" household category.

The Rangaranjan Committee, which examined the NAC's proposals, has raised concern over the availability of foodgrains if large number of beneficiaries are covered under the proposed law. The Committee's view was to provide a legal entitlement to "priority" households alone.

Currently, the government supplies every month 35 kg of rice and wheat at subsidised rates to 6.52 crore BPL families through ration shops.

On sugar exports, sources said that "A note on this issue has been circulated at inter-ministerial level last month and the comments could be placed before the EGOM".
The Agriculture Ministry has favoured permitting export of sugar, while the Commerce Ministry has sought more information on this issues, sources said.

At present, the government has kept the export of 0.5 million tonnes (MT) of sugar under the open general licence (OGL) scheme on hold due to high inflation. But earlier, it had allowed mills to meet their export obligation (ALS) of nearly one million tonnes by March, 2011.

Meanwhile, sugar industry bodies Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA) and National Federation of Cooperative Sugar Factories (NFCSF) have petitioned the government to immediately allow exports.

This is to prevent mounting of arrears for the sugarcane farmers as mills are facing losses of about Rs 150 per quintal on the sale of sugar.

The industry has pegged India's sugar output at 25 MT for the 2010-11 sugar year (October-September), as against demand of 22 MT, while the government's production estimate is marginally lower at 24.5 MT for the same period.

Till February, about 16.3 MT of sugar has been produced, against 13.7 MT in the year-ago period.

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