Centre sets aside 2 million tonne wheat to meet export requests

Written by Commodities Bureau | Agencies | New Delhi, Nov 5 | Updated: Nov 7 2008, 05:19am hrs
The government on Wednesday decided to set aside around 2.0 million tonne of wheat for export, to meet requests made through diplomatic channels. This is the first time in more than a year that the government has gone for a one-off exemption to the countrys export ban on wheat.

We have kept aside two million tonne wheat for supplies to some countries, agriculture minister Sharad Pawar told reporters on the sidelines of an international conference here.

The external affairs ministry will decide on quantities to be supplied to countries that have requested India for wheat, Pawar said. Requests will be considered on humanitarian grounds.

The government had imposed a blanket ban on all wheat exports in 2007, following a drop in procurement by state agencies.

In fact, the fall in local procurement prompted the government to import almost 7.3 million tonne wheat in 2006 and 2007. It first imported around 5.5 million tonne wheat in 2006 and another 1.8 million tonne in the following year.

The countrys wheat harvest in the crop-marketing year that started in April 2008 should top last years record of 78.4 million tonne. This, as good weather conditions are expected to contribute to better yields, Pawar said on Tuesday.

Analysts say robust output and higher stocks at government warehouses have enabled India, the worlds second-biggest producer of wheat, to set aside some of the produce for overseas supplies.

According to official sources, India procured around 23 million tonne wheat in 2007-08 marketing year, which is more than double the procurement figures of the previous year. The governments stock of foodgrains (wheat and rice) as on October 17 this year was around 30 million tonne; this enabled it to be in a comfortable position to export some of the produce.

Wheat prices in international markets have plummeted to below $6 per bushel, down almost 54% from its all-time high in May.

India grows one wheat crop a year. Farmers begin planting the grain in October and harvest the crop in the months of March-April.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, the government decided to export around 55,000 tonne of non-basmati rice to five African nations. This decision too is a one-time exemption to the blanket ban on non-basmati rice exports. The rice will be exported to Nigeria, Senegal, Ghana and Cameron. The government has, however, decided to continue with the blanket ban on non-basmati rice export for now.