New Delhi: Private traders and flour millers imported 4.72 lakh tonnes of wheat in the first seven months of this fiscal on account of lower global prices, Parliament was informed today. “Some traders/millers have imported 4,72,192 tonnes wheat during April to October 2015. The import of wheat on private account might have taken place due to its low international prices,” Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said in a written reply to the Lok Sabha.
He, however, said there is a sufficient buffer stock of wheat. To discourage import of wheat, Paswan said, the government initially imposed an import duty of 10 per cent and then raised it to 25 per cent with effect from October 19. Wheat production in India, the world’s second-biggest grower, is estimated to have declined to 88.94 million tonnes in the 2014-15 crop year as against the record production of 95.85 million tonnes in 2013-14.
Private traders have imported high-protein wheat varieties as the domestic crop was damaged due to rains and hailstorms earlier this year. Replying to a separate question, the minister said the government has not “gone slow” in procuring wheat and rice. Wheat procurement stood at 280.88 lakh tonnes in 2015-16 marketing season against 280.23 lakh tonnes in the previous year.
“The procurement of paddy in terms of rice in kharif marketing season 2015-16 till December 2, 2015 was 141.26 lakh tonnes against 107.26 lakh tonnes in the corresponding period of kharif marketing season of 2014-15,” he added. Rice procurement in the entire 2014-15 marketing season (October-September) stood at 321.65 lakh tonnes. Paswan further said there is no shortage of storage capacity for the stocks procured under the central pool.
“As on November 1, 2015, storage capacity of 806.46 lakh tonnes (covered- 626.49 lakh tonnes and covered and plinth (CAP)- 179.97 lakh tonnes) was available with Food Corporation of India (FCI) and state agencies against the central pool stock of 411.98 lakh tonnes,” the minister added.
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