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Wheat import norms won’t be relaxed, Pawar tells US

India says it will pay more for quality wheat but not expose the country to weed invasion, reports TV Sriram.
None | By T.V. Sriram, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JUL 11, 2007 05:04 AM IST

India on Tuesday said it will pay more for quality wheat but not expose the country to weed invasion. This reaction comes after the US — miffed at being denied a chance to supply its grain — sought independent tests of the consignments entering the country.

"It is a question of paying more money or inviting weeds which will affect Indian agriculture. Food security is important for us no doubt," said Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar while reacting to the statement from the US Embassy in the Capital.

Describing as "unrealistic" New Delhi's phytosanitary requirements for the foodgrain, the US sought independent tests of wheat imported by India.

"India's very low weed seed standard is nearly impossible for any global exporter to meet, raising questions about the reliability of India's import inspection process," the US Embassy statement said. "We are very disappointed that the Indian government's committee of secretaries and Ministry of Agriculture officials have decided against bringing India's unrealistic wheat import phytosanitary requirements in line with international standards," it added.

Pawar, however, said: "It is difficult for us to compromise on phytosanitary norms. These were fixed long back." The minister made it known that there were other countries who fulfilled Indian norms for exporting wheat.

The US Embassy statement said Washington wanted "Government of India to conduct independent tests of imported wheat arriving in Indian ports to verify that these standards are truly being met."

Stating that the high cost to Indian consumers of these "overly stringent" rules is very clear in purchases made last year, the statement said India paid 10 to 20 per cent more for wheat than their comparable Egyptian counterparts.

Meanwhile, India on Tuesday decided to import over 500,000 tons of wheat to augment its buffer stocks. The government plans to import one million tons of wheat this year.

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