Home >opinion >online-views >Government plans to cap wheat imports on hopes of good harvest

New Delhi: The government, which is importing wheat for the second year in a row to shore up buffer stocks, plans to limit purchases at 2.3 million tonnes (mt) as the coming harvest is expected to be good, Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar said on Tuesday.

“Wheat sowing is encouraging and we will have a good crop next year," Pawar said at a news conference.

The grain is sown in November and harvested from March. Farmers are expanding plantings from the usual 27 million (ha) after the government raised the support price, the minister said.

Pawar, who had earlier said that the country would import around 5mt in 2007, said the Centre had scaled down this amount to 2.3mt, confirming the figure a senior government source had told Reuters last month.

“It will be too early to say what will be the final production, but wheat is expected to be planted on a larger area this time," Pawar said.

India is estimated to have produced 74.9mt in 2007, provisional government data showed, up from 63.3mt in the previous year.

The government has already contracted to import 1.3mt in 2007 after buying 5.5mt last year, its first overseas purchase in six years.

Three state-run firms, including MMTC Ltd, plan to import a total of 1mt more to build buffer stocks.

Last month, the government raised the support price for wheat to Rs1,000 per 100 kg from Rs850 for the coming harvest. Pawar said there were no plans to further raise the price.

The minister also said that the government has no plans to cut edible oil import duty further as domestic prices have not gone up, thanks to a spate of earlier reductions and a freeze on tariff value, used to calculate import duty.

Analysts say domestic edible oil prices were at around Rs500 per 10 kg, down Rs20 from July-August. Traders had been expecting a cut in customs duties during the festival season to keep supplies steady.

The government has not revised tariff value since August 2006 and has cut the import duty on palm oil to 45% and soyoil to 40%.

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