New Delhi: The government which, on 30 April, floated a tender to buy one million tonnes of wheat, will decide whether to tap global markets again only after grain purchases from local farmers are over, a top official said.
“Right now, we can manage up to January without much difficulty,” food secretary T. Nanda Kumar said. “It all depends on how much we procure. “I do not really need to panic or rush into imports,” Kumar said. “This one million tonne import is because we feel that we might get it at a reasonable price.”
Kumar said the country had reserve stocks of 4.7 million tonnes (mt) on 1 April 2007, against 2mt last year, and state-run Food Corp. of India (FCI) had so far bought 8mt from farmers.
Procurement of new season domestic wheat by FCI has been slow with some farmers holding back stocks in anticipation of better prices.
FCI buying: Procurement of domestic wheat has been slow this year
“If people are just holding back in the hope that prices will rise, I am not very sure that will happen,” Kumar said.
The Union government had asked state governments to crack down on firms illegally buying wheat directly from fields, rather than markets, to avoid taxes, he said.
Kumar said prices of essential commodities were under control and the government may release some stocks whenever prices rise, but would not cut import duty on palm oil.
Last month, the Centre cut customs duty on crude palm oil and palmolein from 60% to 50%, and that on refined, bleached and deodorized palm oil and palmolein to 57.5% from 67.5%.
Kumar said the government would encourage greater use of ethanol to help sugar firms that are battling low global and domestic prices.
India is expected to produce a record 26mt of sugar during the crop year ending September, up from 19mt last year.
State-run oil companies have been buying ethanol this year as part of a programme to blend it with petrol, but purchases have been slow so far due to quality issues, Kumar said.