New Delhi: The government has bought 940 tonnes of new season wheat from farmers in the last few days, an official said on Thursday, kicking off a buying programme it hopes will remove the need for major imports.
Deals were agreed with farmers at Rs850-960 per 100kg. “Private firms have, so far, bought 1,000 tonnes of wheat for making flour and biscuits, not to trade in the commodity,” Alok Sinha, chairman and managing director of Food Corporation of India (FCI), said.
FCI, which buys foodgrains on behalf of the government, bought only around nine million tonnes (mt) of wheat last year against a target of 16mt, forcing India to order expensive imports totalling 5.5mt. The government’s wheat purchases fell short as private firms such as Cargill and ITC offered more to farmers than the government’s fixed price of Rs650 per 100kg. The government has decided to buy wheat in 2007 at Rs850 per 100kg to shore up buffer stocks.
“Buying wheat for trading in the commodity may not lure companies such as Cargill as the government has decided to offer more to farmers and output estimates are higher,” he said. On Wednesday, the government raised its 2007 output forecast to 73.70mt from an earlier estimate of 72.5mt.
Farmers planted wheat on 28.1 million hectares this year against 26.4 million hectares last year. The country harvested 69.48mt of wheat in 2006.
“Procurement will pick up from 15 April when moisture content in wheat will come down to permissible limits and we will be able to meet the procurement target of 15mt,” Sinha said. He said FCI’s wheat buffer stock stood at 5mt on 1 April against a government norm of 4mt. Imports ordered last year boosted buffer stocks, he said, adding the country has received 5.34mt of imported wheat.
“In rice, we are more than comfortable and have a stock of 20.6mt,” Sinha said.