India has no plans for wheat imports for now, expects record production

India has no plans for wheat imports for now, expects record production


FAO had earlier predicted Pakistan would have to continue wheat imports

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NEW DELHI/LAHORE (Reuters/ Web Desk) – India does not plan to import wheat and its farmers are likely to harvest a bumper crop that will boost stockpiles in the world's second-biggest producer of the staple, the trade minister said on Saturday.

"Ground reports indicate that the crop is quite good and this year's wheat production is expected at a record 114 million metric tons," Piyush Goyal told reporters.

Earlier in November, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) had predicted that Pakistan’s wheat import requirements would decline significantly in the coming year.

In a report, it was stated that adequate soil moisture benefited ongoing planting operations of the 2024 wheat crop, almost entirely irrigated, especially in the main producing provinces of Punjab and Sindh.

In 2023-24, wheat import is forecast to be around 1.8 million tonnes, but would decline significantly from the high quantity of wheat imported between 2020-21 and 2022-23, it added.

According to the report, the country is expected to import substantial quantity of wheat for the third consecutive marketing year till the next harvest. It is a result of below-average outputs and high export flows between 2018 and 2020, significant wheat stock losses caused by widespread floods in 2022, coupled with domestic demand in line with demographic growth – which resulted in higher prices and food insecurity.

India banned wheat exports in 2022 after output was curtailed due to a heat wave, but more recently overseas sales picked up as Russia's invasion of Ukraine sent global wheat prices to multi-year highs.

Read more: Food prices pushes India retail inflation to four-month high in December

The government has sold around 6 million metric tons of wheat to local bulk buyers since June 1, when the state-run Food Corporation of India started selling the grain from its warehouses.

Despite selling wheat from its granaries, inventories at state warehouses are likely to remain above the target of 7.46 million metric tons fixed for April 1, when a new marketing year starts, a top government official said earlier this month.

The country's wheat stocks at state warehouses stood at 16.47 million metric tons as of Jan 1, the lowest since 2017.
Goyal said India would for now continue with its export curbs on wheat, rice and sugar.

"We are committed to protecting both consumers' and farmers' interests," he said.

India, also the world's second-biggest rice producer, last year banned overseas shipments of non-basmati white rice. And New Delhi has also stopped mills from exporting sugar this year.

Goyal also said his government has no immediate plans to allow duty-free imports of corn – also known as maize in India – turning down the poultry industry's demands.

"Farmers will plant more maize this year," he said.