April 27, 2006

 

India's ministry seeks cabinet approval for wheat imports

 

 

India's Food Ministry has sought the approval from the federal cabinet to import 3.0 million tonnes wheat to maintain adequate supplies and control prices for the benefit of the consumers.

 

This is India's single largest wheat import programme in several decades and may cost the exchequer over Rp25 billion.

 

"We have decided 'in principle' to import (wheat) but a formal clearance from the cabinet is also being taken," the official said.

 

After the approval, tenders will be floated through state-owned companies for duty-free importation.

 

The decision to import wheat was announced Friday (Apr 21) after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reviewed the stock, government purchases and supply situation with Food Minister Sharad Pawar.

 

The government is even considering slightly easing the quality specifications for wheat imports to ensure wider participation and a reasonable price, a senior government official said Wednesday.

 

The country has already purchased 500,000 tonnes from Australia's AWB Ltd at US$179.75 a tonnes.

 

The first cargo of a little over 50,000 tonnes arrived at Chennai port Tuesday.

 

The Indian federal government's wheat purchases from farmers Apr 1-25 totalled 8.2 million tonnes, down from 11.7 million tonnes a year earlier.

 

It is this shortfall in local wheat purchases that the government aims to bridge with imports.

 

The government's total stocks of wheat are estimated to have declined 47.5 percent on the year to 2.1 million tonnes as of April 1.

 

The government's local wheat stocks and purchases are an indicator of domestic availability and the country's import needs in the next few months.

 

The government's monthly requirement is for 1.3 million-1.5 million tonnes of wheat to run subsidised sale programmes and welfare schemes.

 

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