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Tuesday, 15 May 1973
Page: 2159

Mr Giles asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:

Will the Government use its influence to motivate relevant United Nations Agencies to set up machinery as soon as possible to cope with the huge effort that will probably be necessary in order to save 15 million Indian people from starvation due to the lack of monsoon al rainfall.

Mr Whitlam - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

The Indian Government has indicated that while the situation arising from the current shortage of foodgrains is serious, it is confident of its ability to meet the present shortage. We understand that India recently advised the United Nations Disaster Relief Office in Geneva that it did not need its assistance.

India had almost achieved self-sufficiency in foodgrain production, but the failure of last year's monsoon reduced the autumn harvest by about 10 million tons, to just over 53 million tons.

Buffer stocks were depleted, initially by generous contributions of food aid to Bangladesh, and later by internal demands. In order to cope with the shortage, India has purchased 1.65 million tons of foodgrains from abroad. The current spring crop has benefited from early Government action to increase it and from favourable weather. The crop, of approximately 46 million tons, is expected to reach the market this month, thereby relieving the immediate shortage. While the situation remains serious and is likely to cause some hardship, there is no evidence of starvation. It is hoped that the forthcoming monsoon, which is due next month, will remove anxiety about the 1973-74 crop.

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