India on Wednesday pledged to contribute 1,53,000 tonnes of food grains to set up a food bank with an initial capacity of 2,43,000 tonness for meeting demand of SAARC countries during emergency-like situations.
The Food Bank, proposed at the Colombo Summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) meet in August, is expected to be operationalised next year. The proposal was ratified at a meet of Agriculture Ministers of the region.
"We have formalised the process for operationalisation of the food bank," India's Agriculture Minister and chairman of the meet, Sharad Pawar, said. The capacity of the bank may be scaled up later depending on the situation, Pawar said.
While India remains the largest contributor to the bank, both Pakistan and Bangladesh will offer 40,000 tonnes each. Nepal and Sri Lanka will provide 4,000 tonnes each followed by Afghanistan (1,420 tonnes), Maldives (200 tonnes) and Bhutan (180 tonnes).
The food grains would be stored in different places in border areas of member nations, a top Indian government official said, adding, a pricing formula has been agreed upon to supply the food grain in case of emergency. The Food Corporation of India will be in charge of up keeping the food grains in the country.
The SAARC nations also ruled out joining hands to form any rice cartel, an idea mooted by Thailand, a major rice producer, to have more bargaining power in world trade.
"We have not considered it yet... About 40 per cent of poor people live in this part of the world. Forming a cartel does not suit our purpose," Pawar said, while Bangladesh's adviser to the Ministry of Agriculture, C S Karim, nodded in agreement.Global meltdown: Complete coverage