CVC squeezes Govt on wheat imports

Written by ASHOK B SHARMA | Updated: Oct 1 2007, 01:26am hrs
Governments wheat import plans has run into rough weather with the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) questioning the motive behind the decision.

According to sources the CVC has asked the Union food and consumer affairs ministry to clarify weather imports made in 2006 and 2007 could have been avoided if the government agencies were sincere in procuring enough wheat for the buffer stock from farmers, by adequately raising the minimum support price (MSP). It has questioned as to why wheat imports were planned and announced before the harvest.

The CVC has also questioned the government for the delay in announcing the minimum support price (MSP) for wheat and the bonus price on procurement. The report of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) said : The late announcement of bonus (in 2006) deprived many farmers, particularly small farmers, who sold their crop to private traders as soon it was harvested

The CVC has also asked as to why the government had to import wheat at higher prices by placing an extra burden on the exchequer, when the produce was adequately available in the country and wheat output has increased to about 75 million tonne

The enquiry panel has questioned the government for lowering quarantine norms. Many state governments have rejected imported wheat as unfit for human consumption.

The CVC has acted upon a complaint filed by the former BJP MP, Kirit Somaiya. We have received the complaint from Mr Somaiya and have asked the food ministry to clarify certain points raised by him, said a senior CVC official.

The government had in 2006 imported 5.5 million tonne wheat at prices ranging between $ 178.75 to $ 228.94 a tonne. Five tenders were floated in the period February 20, 2006 to August 30, 2006.

In 2007, the State Trading Corporation of India (STC) floated a tender in May which attracted bids for 306,000 tonne at $ 263 a tonne, but this tender was subsequently scrapped by the government citing high prices. Later in response to a fresh tender floated in August, this year the government finalized bids for import of 795,000 tonne wheat at an average price of $ 389.45 a tonne.