May 13, 2004



Indian Traders Step Up Wheat Buying For Exports

Indian traders have bought nearly half a million tonne of wheat from the new crop and are awaiting a Government policy to resume exports, a top official of the country's largest grain procurement agency said on Wednesday.


Grain exports have been on hold since last August when the state-run Food Corporation of India (FCI) stopped the subsidised sale of wheat and rice to exporters due to a fall in stocks.


"We have got reports that traders have bought 400,000-500,000 tonne of wheat from the market, awaiting a policy on exports," FCI managing director VK Malhotra told Reuters in an interview.


He said several traders had bought wheat in lots of 40,000-50,000 tonne each mainly from markets in Madhya Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana with the intention to export.


India is likely to decide on the resumption of wheat exports after assessing the stock position later this month when wheat procurement operations are wrapped up.


Malhotra said the Commerce and Food ministries were working on the modalities of exports, but did not give a time-frame by when overseas sales could begin.


Regional traders in Singapore said on Tuesday that India was offering lower grade wheat for exports, negotiating deals for crops harvested in 1999 and 2000 with Philippine and South Korean buyers for May and June shipments.


Malhotra said FCI did not have stocks from these crops but some exporters and international trading agencies could be holding them to sell as feed wheat.


"FCI had finished the 1999 and 200 crop two years ago. The old stock with me is now of 2002 and 2003," he said, adding that wheat had a shelf-life of more than four years.


Malhotra said FCI had so far procured more than 15.5 million tonne of wheat in the 2004-2005 marketing season, almost the same as the previous season.


India's wheat crop this year has been hit by unusually hot weather in March and heavy rains in April. The country is expecting a crop of around 73 million tonne, about three million tonne lower than earlier estimates.


Malhotra said FCI would have stocks of 18.4 million tonne of wheat and 11 million tonne of rice on July 1, higher than the buffer stock requirement of 14.3 million tonne of wheat and 10 million tonne of rice.


"As of today we can spare some wheat for exports but we need to assess the country's needs for the next 12 months."

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