New Delhi: Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, weathering allegations over wheat imports said on 16 July the government will continue purchases from abroad even if the price is high but no compromise on quality in its quest to build stockpiles.
“We are going to buy wheat on a regular basis. This is a conscious decision that government has taken... When the question of feeding our population comes, price will not be the issue,” he told reporters here, although the opposition BJP has alleged a scam and sought his resignation.
The government had announced its plan to import 5 million tonne of wheat this year to build buffer stocks and the State Trading Corporation last week contracted a little over half a million tonne of wheat at $317-330 a tonne.
It had cancelled a tender last month though the price quoted was around $263 a tonne.
“The government could have bought wheat at a cheaper rate from the US but it decided not to dilute the quality norms (as it would have facilitated entry of weeds),” Pawar told reporters at the foundation day celebration of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research.
“If we had allowed American wheat into the country, we would have got at cheaper rates,” he said, adding that there was demand from US to dilute the phyto-sanitary norms, which was approved long back by the government.
“Our scientific community’s considered view was that we should not dilute up to that level, especially when (it would have allowed entry of) a particular type of weed that might affect Indian agriculture,” Pawar said.