The government will release 10 lakh tonnes of wheat from buffer stock to sell in the open market to boost domestic availability and check prices, Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said on Thursday. The minister said that 12 lakh tonnes of wheat has so far been imported by private traders this fiscal, which will also ensure sufficient availability of stock in the open market.
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A senior food ministry official said private imports could touch 30 lakh tonnes this fiscal, while ruling out any possibilities of further cut in import duty or the government importing wheat on its own account.
On September 23, import duty on wheat was reduced to 10 per cent from 25 per cent to boost supplies and check prices during Dusshera and Diwali.
“We have released about 30 lakh tonnes under the Open Market Sale Scheme (OMSS). We have decided to release 10 lakh tonnes more under OMSS from our strategic reserve,” Paswan told reporters here.
Wheat prices have witnessed an upward trend and rates have risen by about Rs 250 per quintal in the Delhi’s wholesale market.
Asked about the price rise in pulses and wheat, Paswan said the Centre has adequate stock of pulses and wheat and blamed state governments for not doing enough to control rates of essential food items.
“We have allocated 40,000 tonnes of pulses to states from our buffer stock, but they have lifted only 20,000 tonnes,” Paswan said, adding that state governments cannot escape from their responsibility on controlling prices.
States should create infrastructure for milling of pulses, he added.
“The government is capable of controlling prices. Barring pulses, prices have not increased in food items,” Paswan said, while highlighting several measures taken to curb rates.
Later, a senior food ministry official said that imports of wheat work out to be cheaper at the current custom duty level and there is no need to reduce it further.
Wheat production increased to 93.5 million tonnes for the 2015-16 crop year (July-June) as compared to 86.53 million tonnes in the previous year, according to the Agriculture Ministry’s fourth advance estimate.
However, the industry is estimating wheat output to be lower at 85-86 million tonnes for 2015-16.