MMTC floats tender to import 3.5 lakh tonnes of wheat

MMTC floats tender to import 3.5 lakh tonnes of wheat

New Delhi: In the midst of a controversy over import of wheat at higher prices, the government today floated a global tender to buy up to 3.5 lakh tonnes of the foodgrain from overseas market to increase buffer stock.

State-owned trading company MMTC floated the tender on behalf of the government to import up to 3.5 lakh tonnes of wheat to be delivered in India by 10 February 2008, a senior MMTC official said.

The bids would close on 19 November 2007 and a decision on the tender would be taken by 24 November, MMTC said.

The government is planning to import about 10 lakh tonnes of wheat through MMTC, STC and PEC to build its buffer stock, which stood at 101.21 lakh tonnes as on 1 October 2007 against the stipulated 110 lakh tons.

MMTC has already floated the tender, while PEC and STC are also expected to follow soon with tenders for similar quantities, said a government official.

This is the fourth tender this year to import wheat after government decided to purchase over 13 lakh tonnes through the last two rounds of bids. The first tender was cancelled.

The government purchased 5.11 lakh tonnes of wheat at an average price of $325.59 (Rs12,801) per tonne while another 7.95 lakh tonnes was purchased at $389.45 per tonne. It had cancelled the first tender in which the global suppliers offered wheat at an average price of $263 per tonne.

The government’s decision to buy wheat at higher prices compared to what it was paying to domestic farmers came under severe criticism from the BJP and the Left parties, prompting the ruling UPA to go slow on import of the foodgrain.

MMTC said wheat can be delivered here from any country, subject to quality specifications. It has also allowed global suppliers to find the foodgrain grown during 2006-07 and 2007-08 seasons.

“Bidders should quote port-wise, month-wise quantity for arrival up to 10 February next year," it said.

The maximum quantity of wheat that can be shipped from each port has been mentioned in the tender document. The quantity limit per ship at Mundra port would be 65,000 tonnes, Kakinada 50,000 tonnes and Kandla 45,000 tonnes.

However for Chennai, Tuticorn and Vishakhapatnam it would be 40,000 tonnes each while for Cochin and Mumbai, it is 35,000 tonnes each.

MMTC said, “the quantities contracted for each port may undergo change, depending on the rates received for a particular month and particular port."

In view of the controversy relating to the quality of imported wheat being distributed through public distribution system, MMTC said: “The cargo on arrival at discharge port would be subject to inspection by Indian phytosanitary and health authorities. In case the cargo is rejected at discharge port for not meeting the quality regulations (already covered in tender specifications), the seller shall be responsible for all cost and consequences whatsoever, including refund of payment received from MMTC along with losses and damages incurred."