Ban on cotton exports may go soon: Khullar

New Delhi: Indian government may lift the ban on cotton exports soon even as a GoM meet to review the decision on Friday ended without conclusion.

After the meeting of the Group of Ministers (GoM), headed by Indian Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Commerce and Textiles Minister Anand Sharma said, "Talks remained inconclusive and further discussion is required. The meeting can place take today."

However, Indian Commerce Secretary Rahul Khullar told PTI that "we are contemplating lifting the ban on cotton exports".

The GoM meeting was held following the directive from Prime Minister Manhoman Singh, who on March 7 asked the GoM to "urgently" review the decision.

The Commerce Ministry on March 5 banned cotton exports to boost domestic availability. The decision was opposed by the Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar who said it was taken without his approval.

"They (Commerce and Textiles ministries) kept me in the dark. I came to know about this only after a notification was issued by Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) on Friday," he had said.

"While taking such a decision, it is always proper to discuss it in Cabinet Committee on Prices or in Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs as is done with wheat, rice, sugar. So I have raised this issue with the Prime Minister. This is highly objectionable," Pawar had observed. .

Briefing the reporters on the outcome of the GoM meeting, Textile Secretary Kiran Dhingra said, "Further discussion is needed. The next meeting is as shortly as possible. The whole issue (ban on cotton export) is still open. It is being discussed but the decision has not been taken."

The GoM meeting was attended by Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, Sharma and Prime Minister`s Economic Advisory Council (PMEAC) Chairman C Rangarajan.

Earlier this week, the Textile Ministry had said the ban was imposed after taking into account "the trend of domestic consumption and depletion of domestic availability".

It had pointed out that the country had already shipped 10 lakh bales more than the exportable surplus, reducing the domestic availability.

"Almost 94 lakh bales (170 kg each) have already shipped out, against an estimated export surplus of 84 lakh bales," the ministry had said. It feared the exports could reach 100 lakh bales by mid-March with registration of export contracts touching 120 lakh bales so far.

Besides Pawar, the cotton exports ban has also been opposed by ruling Congress party`s Maharashtra and Gujarat units. A delegation had also met Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on March 7.

Western Indian state Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi too had written a letter to Singh seeking revocation of the ban on cotton exports.