India to issue regular wheat tenders: Pawar

India to issue regular wheat tenders: Pawar

New Delhi: India plans to float wheat import tenders at regular intervals for the rest of the year, without specifying quantities, mirroring the way it buys edible oils, Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said on 28 August.

“We will be floating more wheat import tenders this year. It will be a regular feature, like (edible) oil imports," Pawar told reporters.

Indian traders and state agencies import nearly 5 million tonnes of edible oil throughout the year in the form of palm oils from Malaysia and Indonesia and soy oils from South America.

The government last week floated a tender for wheat imports between October and December, both in shipments and containers, but unusually did not specify the quantity it wanted to purchase.

The tender closes on Wednesday and offers will be valid until September 3.

“We are sure offers will come against the tender, but prices will be high," said a government official involved in the process. “We will be comfortable with offers ranging between $370-$380 per tonne, on a cost and freight basis."

Wheat futures at the Chicago Board of trade hit 11-year highs this month.

How much the government bought would depend on the price bids, the official said, adding Egypt last week purchased Russian wheat at $292 per tonne free on board.

“For us, similar wheat could be available around $370 per tonne cost and freight," he said.

Australian-origin wheat would only be available after November as so was unlikely to feature in the current tender. Current domestic prices in Australia were $40 per tonne higher than international rates.

Pawar said domestic wheat production had been very good this year and the government was not worried about availability.

“We are interested in having large buffer stocks. And to build large stocks, imports will be a regular phenomenon this year."

Wheat output in India, the world’s second-biggest producer, is estimated at 74.89 million tonnes in 2007, up from 69.48 million tonnes last year.

Pawar said a group of ministers would meet in the next 10 days to work out further export incentives for sugar mills hit by falling prices and glut in domestic market.