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The 56,000-tonne Indian durum wheat consignment, turned back by Egypt and Turkey, is currently berthed at an Israeli port as it awaits news of a final destination, government officials said.

The officials, however, denied there was any link between the consignment’s rejection and the current political furore in West Asia over anti-Islamic remarks made by suspended Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Nupur Sharma.

The Indian government maintains that the consignment exported by ITC Ltd had met quarantine requirements when it left India.

“The wheat shipment was turned down by Turkey because the wheat’s protein content was below 13-14%, which is a key food safety regulation for Turkey and Egypt had turned away the shipment without drawing any samples for testing," the official said.

“Usually the government does not get involved in such situations because the financial transaction was done and the ITC was paid. But because it was Indian wheat we are keeping track," the official added.

Mint had earlier reported that the wheat shipment was sold to the Netherlands, but it was diverted to Turkey and then to Egypt. Both the countries did not accept the wheat amid reports that the consignment had a non-plant based virus.

The shipment left India before a ban was announced on wheat exports on 13 May. The shipment could be valued in millions as the price of wheat internationally has jumped sharply after the Russia-Ukraine war. Wheat price in the international market is around $450- 480 per tonne, as per the Ministry of Consumer Affairs.

“The reason for rejection was the protein content and not phytosanitary issues," one of the officials said, adding that political reasons may also be at play. However, another official said that although India shares testy relations with some countries, international trade stands on its own legs.

“Our relations with Saudi Arabia are not the best, but we buy oil. Political issues have little to do with trade," the second official added.

When a shipment is rejected, there are usually three options -- the exporter can destroy it, divert it or bring it back to the original source, an expert said, adding that destroying a shipment is usually the last option but it has happened in the past.

Also, wheat is not a perishable commodity and is often stored in India for months, the expert added.

Last week, Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal said that the government is investigating the reason behind Turkey’s rejection.

Queries sent to the spokespersons of the commerce and industry ministry, ITC and the Embassies of Israel, Egypt and Turkey did not elicit a response till press time.

ITC maintains that it exported to Netherlands customers on FOB (free on board) terms and that the cargo was loaded after being checked and cleared by both the buyer-nominated surveyors as well as by the plant quarantine authorities.

FOB is a shipment term used to indicate whether the seller or the buyer is liable for goods that are damaged or destroyed during shipping.

Experts said that India’s farm exports have often been rejected due to phytosanitary issues. Earlier this year, Indonesia suspended Indian farm exports after reporting quality issues. In addition, India failed to register laboratories that test food safety and issue a certificate of analysis.

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