Pune: Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said on 27 March that the government may import about 3 million tonnes of wheat this year, if deemed necessary, in order to feed the public distribution system and other social welfare measures.
He said that the wheat crop this year is likely to be good with an expected yield of around 72 million tonnes, and added that that the government would not be exporting wheat.
While declaring a bonus of Rs100 per quintal on wheat for the current Rabi marketing season in Parliament on 16 March, Pawar had earlier said: “The government will import, if necessary, adequate quantity of wheat to meet the requirements of the PDS and other welfare schemes”.
He had said that the state-owned trading firm STC would be asked to take preparatory steps to import up to 3 million tonnes.
The government has already permitted duty-free import of wheat till 2007-end to avoid any shortage of the grain due to the last year’s experience of lower than estimated production.
The second advance estimate of the government puts the wheat output at 72.5 million tonnes in 2006-07.
Agriculture Secretary P K Mishra had last week said that the second advance estimate would be achieved and actual production might even cross the projection.
“It (second advance estimate) will be certainly achieved and how much more would be known by middle of April,” he said.
Meanwhile, the government has expressed the confidence that it would be able to meet its procurement target of 15.1 million tonnes in the current marketing Rabi season.
The government was able to procure only 9.2 million tonnes last year against the targetted 16.2 million tonnes, which forced it to import wheat after a gap of six years. It has imported 5.5 million tonnes of wheat to meet its requirement for PDS and other welfare schemes.