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FoodMin has proposed 10% import duty on wheat

Storm in Mathura

New Delhi: Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan today said his ministry has proposed 10 per cent import duty on wheat to curb cheaper shipments as the country already has surplus stock.

At present, there is no import duty on wheat.

Paswan also ruled out any quality issue on wheat procured this year by the Food Corporation of India (FCI), the nodal agency for procurement and distribution of foodgrains.

“There are reports that private traders are importing wheat. We have proposed 10 per cent duty to check cheap imports and ensure that surplus wheat is consumed,” Paswan told reporters here.

Wheat is being imported at Rs 17 per kg, while it is available in the domestic market at Rs 18.50 per kg, he added.

“There is sufficient supply in the country. The wheat being procured by FCI this year is of good quality and is fit for human consumption,” he said.

Paswan said that quality norms were relaxed on wheat procurement as crops got damaged due to unseasonal rains, but asserted that the “quality of grain is good”.

Imports are happening despite bumper domestic wheat output in the 2014-15 crop year and surplus stocks with the FCI.

The corporation has a huge stock of 40 million tonnes of wheat despite drop in production to 90.78 MT in 2014-15 from record 95.85 million tonnes in the 2013-14 crop year.

FCI has procured 27.6 MT wheat so far in the current marketing year that started from April. “Of which, 20-30 per cent of the grain is of poor quality and that need to be disposed of soon,” an official had earlier said.

The corporation procured poor quality wheat as it relaxed norms this year to protect farmers, whose crop got damage due to hailstorms and unseasonal rains from February to April.

Flour millers and private traders say they are importing wheat on lower global prices as well as lack of high quality wheat in the domestic market.

Millers have started importing wheat from Australia for the first time in a decade. They have already contracted for import of 5,00,000 tonnes of wheat from Australia and are planning to purchase another 5,00,000 tonnes from France and Russia.

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