April 21, 2004

 

 

India To Decide On Wheat Exports Mid-May
 
India is likely to decide on the resumption of wheat exports after assessing the stock position in mid-May when wheat procurement operations are wrapped up, a top food ministry official said on Tuesday.
 
Grain exports have been on hold since last August when the state-run Food Corporation of India stopped the subsidised sale of wheat and rice to exporters due to a fall in stocks.
 
"The policy is that exports should not lead to domestic scarcity. We want enough stocks for our domestic consumption," Food Secretary S.K. Tuteja said in an interview. "We will look at our stocks in mid-May and then take a decision."
 
India is likely to produce around 76 million tons of wheat this year, lower than the earlier estimate of 78 million tons due to unusually hot weather in March, he said.
 
"It is not an issue, we are slightly lower than the earlier estimates but much higher than last year," he said.
 
India's production of wheat, grown in November-December and harvested in March-April, fell to 65.1 million tons in 2003 due to the worst drought in 15 years.
 
This year unusually hot weather in March in northern and central India has lead to faster maturing of the grains, advancing the harvest time by nearly two weeks.
 
Temperatures in most growing areas in northern and central India in March were five to seven degrees higher than the normal level of 32 degrees Celsius.
 
Tuteja said state-run agencies had procured 10.3 million tons of wheat by Monday compared with 4.5 million tons at the same time in the previous year.
 
"Despite the bad weather, the quality of grains is very good and the crop is disease-free."
 
Tuteja said several countries including Egypt, Sri Lanka and Yemen were keen to buy Indian wheat but the government was yet to take any decision. "We will decide only by mid-way when the procurement is nearly over."
 
He said Sri Lanka has shown interest in buying 100,000 tons while Egypt last month sought 60,000 tons. Yemen too wants Indian wheat in smaller quantities.
 
The country is now comfortable with its wheat stocks, after robust exports for nearly three years before last August, and there were no problems of handling a surplus, the official said.
 
India, after initial rejection of wheat shipments over quality concerns in 2001, sold wheat to 53 countries in Asia, the Middle East and Africa.
 
"We have come out of the situation when we were getting sleepless nights because of unusually high stocks but at the same time we have enough stocks for domestic consumption," he said.
 
On April 1, the country's wheat stocks stood at 6.0 million tons compared with the buffer stock requirement of 4.0 million tons. But the stocks were lower than 15.6 million tons in April 2003 and 26 million tons in 2002.

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