Amid tight supply of wheat in the domestic market, Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan today ruled out possibility of import of the grain on government account saying there is adequate buffer stock to meet the requirement under the Public Distribution System (PDS). The government has recently scrapped import duty on wheat to boost domestic supplies and curb price rise. The private players has imported more than 1.7 million tonnes of wheat so far and more shipments are expected at zero Customs duty.
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Asked if the government would undertake wheat imports, Paswan said: “That situation may not arise as we have adequate stock in the central pool to meet the PDS requirement.”
As on December 1, state-owned Food Corporation of India had 27.55 milion tonnes of foodgrains, of which wheat was 16.4 million tonnes and rice was 11 million tonnes, he told media while briefing about his ministry’s achievement in 2016.
Although there is tight supply situation, the Agriculture Ministry has been maintaining wheat output to be higher at 93.55 million tonnes for the 2015-16 crop year (July-June), which the industry has countered and said the output has lowered to 86-88 million tonnes.
Explaining the reasons behind removal of import duty, Paswan said, “It was done purely to control prices. We have enough stock for PDS requirement but in the open market there is tight position. The zero import duty will not be permanent.”
Asked if the Food Ministry believes the Agriculture Ministry’s wheat estimate for 2015-16, the Minister said, “In every meeting, we have asked for accurate and realistic data. They say the data is right. So,there is no question of not believing in the data of the other ministry.”
Consumer Affairs Secretary Hem Pande said, “We did not take decision based only on the figures of the Agriculture Ministry. We have also taken into consideration that there is some issue with production. We took decision taking into account both Agriculture Ministry’s estimate of around 94 million tonnes and industry’s figure of 88 million tonnes.”
While there are doubts about last year’s wheat output data, there are concerns about this year’s wheat crop as the Met Department has projected warmer winter. Although the acreage so far is higher, but experts said any rise in temperature during February-March may affect crop yields.
The Agriculture Ministry is targeting a record 96.50 million tonnes of wheat output for 2016-17.