India's first wheat import to arrive on April 8-9 | india | Hindustan Times
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India's first wheat import to arrive on April 8-9

The first shipment of imported wheat in six years is expected to arrive at a port in the south of the country on April 8 or 9.

india Updated: Apr 03, 2006 16:38 IST

The first shipment of imported wheat in six years is expected to arrive at a port in the south of the country on April 8 or 9, a senior government official said on Monday.

"Out of the 500,000 tonnes being imported, 250,000 tonnes will come in April," the official, who did not want to be named, told Reuters. "All the five shipments for April will come in by the first half (of the month)."

"The rest will come in by the first half of May. The landed cost of the grain works out to be lower than what it would have cost to send (wheat) from northern India to southern India," he said.

Last month, the food ministry awarded a tender for 500,000 tonnes of wheat to Australian exporter AWB Ltd in a bid to build stocks and cap prices in non-wheat growing southern states.

The official said the landed cost of the wheat was between Rs 920 and 930 per quintal (100 kg).

Last week, Farm Minister Sharad Pawar said the government was planning to float a new tender to import wheat, in addition to 500,000 tonnes already contracted. He said up to 1.5 million tonnes more grain could be imported.

"That is part of contingency planning. We will wait for progress in procurement of the domestic crop," said the official, referring to the process by which the government buys crops from farmers to build buffer stocks.

"By the end of April ... we will know if there is any need for further imports," he added.

He said procurement began on April 1 and the yield looked promising, though there was damage to the crop from rains and hailstorms that recently hit the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.

Traders said unusually hot weather in February and the sudden rains in March appeared to have affected farmers in the state for the second year in a row.

Last summer's wheat crop dwindled to 72 million tonnes because of bad weather, after experts had forecast a record haul of 76 million tonnes. The reduction had forced the government to look at imports for the first time in six years.

Pawar estimated wheat output at around 73 million tonnes for this year, although traders say the figure could be lower.