Flour mills have inked deals to import 8.25 lakh tonnes of wheat from Australia, France and Ukrain for delivery during this year in view of likely shortfall in domestic output.
Millers’ said they can import more wheat if the government reduces import duty on it to 10 per cent from the existing 25 per cent or removes it completely.
Last year too, private flour millers had purchased about 5 lakh tonnes of wheat from Australia for the first time in a decade due to sluggish supply and lower international prices.
“Import deals have already been signed for 8,25,000 tonnes of wheat from Australia, France and Ukraine. These contracts were entered during July-August period. Further contracts are not happening now,” Roller Flour Millers’ Federation of India Ex-President M K Datta Raj told PTI.
Out of the total quantities contracted, the shipment of 2,50,000 tonnes of wheat has already reached Indian ports and the balance is on the way, he said.
Last month, 60,000 tonnes of Australian wheat and 30,000 tonnes each of Ukrainian and French wheat landed at Tuticorin port in Tamil Nadu, he added.
Millers are importing wheat mainly due to low global prices and a likely shortfall in the domestic output by 5 million tonnes.
“We estimate 2015-16 wheat output to be lower at 85-86 million tonnes and the US Department of Agriculture also says India’s output to be lower at 88 million tonnes. But the government has pegged 93.50 million tonnes,” Raj said.
Even the government’s wheat procurement remained low at 22.9 million tonnes as against the target of 30.5 million tonnes set for the 2016-17 marketing year (April-March). Bulk of the procurement has been done during April-June.
Asked if more imports could take place in the coming months, Raj said, “If the duty is removed, then more wheat will come. Anytime, the government should make a decision on this as wheat stock in its FCI godowns are reducing.”
The government is going slow on making a decision on wheat import duty as it is in the process of clearing the 2014-15 stock in Punjab.
“If import duty is reduced/removed, nobody will buy this wheat,” he added.
The state-owned FCI has a wheat stock of 26.87 million tonnes at present.
Despite drought in over ten states, wheat production has been pegged at 93.50 million tonnes for the 2015-16 crop year (July-June) compared to 86.53 million tonnes in the previous year, according the Agriculture Ministry’s fourth advance estimate.