The government on Wednesday said it would not resort to additional wheat imports as sufficient wheat stocks were available. A new incentive package would be announced for the sugar industry allowing direct conversion of sugarcane juice to ethanol, it added.
The package would assist farmers to cope with falling prices in the wake of a bumper production. The matter would be taken up in the Cabinet within the next fortnight, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said.
Pawar also ruled out additional import of wheat. "We have decided to go slow on wheat imports. We are carefully watching the situation and assessing the release of the commodity to various states, besides keeping a watch on international prices," Pawar said on the sidelines of an Assocham meeting in New Delhi. "Whatever policy decisions we had adopted, we would be able to manage it and if required we would review the same. However, there is no such requirement as of now," he added.
The proposed move to import wheat had come under criticism from the Left parties and the main Opposition BJP. The government had planned to import 50 lakh tonnes of wheat this year. Since sugar production is picking up and amounting to lowering of sugar prices, the government intends to announce certain tax benefits to sugar industry, to ensure that production levels are maintained, Pawar added.
He, however, clarified that incentives and tax benefits would be accorded only to those sugar producers who have cleared dues of farmers for sugar procurement and that those who do not clear off their outstanding, would be denied benefits.
Pawar said that most of the grains and oil seeds were being diverted for biofuel production, as a result of which, the government had to import pulses, oil seeds and even wheat. He called upon wheat producing states like Uttarkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, part of Bihar and Madhya Pradesh to assist in meeting the growing demand for the commodity even from southern and north-eastern states.