2 mt wheat likely to be imported

New Delhi, March 29 | Updated: Mar 30 2006, 05:30am hrs
The government is planning to import about 2 million tonne (mt)of wheat in the current season.Speaking to mediapersons at the sidelines of the state food ministers conference in the Capital on Wednesday, the Union food and agriculture minister, Sharad Pawar said : Imports are needed to build up buffer stocks in the country.

In February, the government on the pretext of shortage and rising prices, decided to import 5,00,000 tonne of wheat. The tender for import of this quantity of wheat had been awarded to a public sector company, AWB of Australia.

According to the government estimate, wheat output in the current season is likely to increase by 1.5% and is to touch 73.06 mt. Keeping in view the expected good harvest, the government has estimated a procurement of 16.2 mt of wheat for the central pool in the current marketing season.

In this context, Dr Krishan Bir Chaudhary leader of the ruling Congress partys farmer outfit, Bharat Krishak Samaj said: There is no reason for importing wheat.The central pool has a stock of 3.6 mt of wheat, sufficient to meet the needs for three months as the average offtake is to the tune of 1.2 mt per month. Besides, wheat is scheduled to arrive in the market early next month and the government has announced a procurement of 16.2 mt, sufficient enough to maintain buffer stock.

He blamed the government for following the dictates of USA which in its report suggested India to import 2 mtwheat.

On the issue of rising prices, he squarely blamed the traders and multinational companies like ITC and Cargill for stock piling wheat and creating artificial scarcity. He said that wheat output in the previous year was 72 mt and government agencies procured only 14.78 mt and the rest was cornered by private traders and MNCs. He alleged that traders and MNCs exported wheat with the help of government subsidy.

Leader of the CPIs farmers outfit, Atul Kumar Anjaan alleged that wheat imports from Australia would be costly at Rs 8,700 to Rs 10,000 a tonne.