The government is unlikely to allow exports of wheat just yet — despite record output and bulging stocks — official sources said, a decision that conforms to minister of state for agriculture KV Thomas views, rather than agriculture minister Sharad Pawar’s.
The Pawar-led agriculture ministry had sometime ago proposed lifting of a ban wheat export, citing record production, bulging stocks and high international prices.
This had led to speculation that India — the world’s second-largest grower of wheat — may lift the four-year ban on wheat export.
Thomas's ministry had argued against exports, citing a pending food security legislation and high domestic food costs.
The inter-ministerial group (IMG) on food inflation, set up by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and led by chief economic adviser Kaushik Basu, has sought opinions of various ministries on the prudence of allowing wheat exports. It has also sought data pertaining to stocks and availability.
The government feels there could be political risks to allowing exports unless a clear picture of future trends emerges, with inflation still unacceptably high.
Thomas has instead backed releasing more foodgrains to states to pare government-held stocks.
Asked whether the government would free more publicly held grains, Thomas said: “We have already released 50 lakh tonnes. We have set aside another 50 lakh tonnes following the Supreme Court’s orders.”
Thomas, however, said diplomatic exports to help neighbouring countries, such Bangladesh, would continue. Indian wheat exports could cool international demand, as food prices continue to spiral in many countries mainly because of loss of crop in Russia, a big exporter.
A second straight year of good monsoon has brightened prospects of a record wheat harvest at 84.2 million tonnes in the 2011-12 crop year (July-June).