Cotton export ban lifted under political pressure

New Delhi: In a U-turn, the government today lifted ban on cotton exports under immense political pressure, within days of prohibiting shipments of the natural fibre. However, it will take some time before exports resume, as the Commerce and Textiles ministries will “scrutinise and revalidate” the registrations and submit their report to the group of ministers, expected to meet within two weeks.

The Directorate General of Foreign Trade withdrew its March 5 notification that had prohibited cotton exports. “The ban stands lifted as of this morning. There are huge bunches of registrations; those would be scrutinised and revalidated,” Commerce Secretary Rahul Khullar said. But no new export registrations would be done until the existing entitlements are revalidated, he said. Of the total registrations of 13 million bales before the ban, 3.5 million bales are yet to be shipped and these would be scrutinised.

The decision follows meeting of the GoM, headed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, on March 9, which took place in the wake of Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar`s protest over the export ban. Some Chief Ministers including from Congress-ruled Maharashtra and BJP-ruled Gujarat had also conveyed their resentment over the move, stating it would hurt farmers.

A delegation from Gujarat led by Ahmed Patel, Political Secretary to UPA President Sonia Gandhi, also met Sharma yesterday seeking revocation of the ban. Defending the ban, Khullar said more than 85 per cent of shipments were to China and there were also evidences of stockpiling abroad. Sharma too tried to dismiss “sceptical people” stating:”we cannot go upto a point where the domestic industry is starved of…in the past cotton went to Liverpool and Manchester”.