New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called a meeting on April 23 to discuss the objections raised by Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar regarding exports of farm items such as sugar, cotton and milk. Last week, Pawar had shot off a letter to the Prime Minister stating that the government's export policies are hurting farmers who are being asked to subsidize the industry. In the letter, Pawar had strongly criticised the Food Ministry, headed by K V Thomas, and the Textile Ministry under the charge of Anand Sharma for the policies which are "ambivalent" and go against farmers.

According to sources, the Prime Minister has called a meeting on April 23 to discuss the issues raised by Pawar.

The meeting will be attended by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Food Minister K V Thomas and Commerce Minister Anand Sharma, they added.

Describing restriction on cotton exports as "retrograde", the NCP chief had said: "Indian cotton farmers should not be asked to bear the burden of subsidising the textile mills.

"Compromising the interest of small cotton farmers to benefit the textile magnates is indeed a travesty of justice. Moreover, it defies logic to permit the consumer of cotton (textile industry) to dictate terms to cotton producer ..."

Similarly, Pawar had said the "negative approach" of the Food Department in allowing sugar exports has led to heavy losses in export earnings which could have been used to clear cane arrears to farmers that have crossed Rs 8,000 crore.

"On numerous occasions I have discussed with you the need to have farmer-centric agriculture policy ... On each of these occasions, I have found you in consonance with these ideas," Pawar told the Prime Minister.

"However, despite this our government has time and again taken decision which goes against the interest of the farming community and adversely impacts its growth and stability".

(Agencies)