As private players step up wheat buying, govt eyes export curbs

NEW DELHI: The government is likely to take a call soon on whether to slow down wheat exports amid concerns over the dip in stocks of the foodgrain with the Food Corporation of India (FCI) due to aggressive buying by private players and fall in overall production.
The issue of wheat stock with the government to meet the statutory requirement under food security law and other welfare schemes and the rising prices of edible oils came up before the committee of ministers headed by home minister Amit Shah on Thursday, TOI has learnt. Sources said officers flagged certain concerns over the present pace of export of wheat to other countries and the likely trend for the next few months due to the prolonged Russia-Ukraine war.
They said soon a detailed roadmap would be prepared and placed before the committee of ministers in which road transport minister Nitin Gadkari, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman and food and commerce minister Piyush Goyal are also members. The inter-ministerial panel can then take a final decision.
The government has set a target to export 10 million tonnes (MTs) of wheat during 2022-23. India exported 7 MTs in 2021-22 and nearly 50% of it was exported to Bangladesh.
In the past few weeks, the situation has changed dramatically. Where earlier the FCI’s wheat granaries were overflowing, now the agency is staring at its lowest ever procurement in more than a decade due to the prevailing international situation. Sources added that the government doesn’t want to risk any spike in prices of wheat.
Official data show both modal and average price of loose atta (flour) has increased in the past one year. The modal price – most prevalent price across centres – was Rs 28 per kg on Thursday compared to Rs 24 a year back. Similarly, average price of atta was Rs 36.2 a kg on Thursday against Rs 29.7 on the same day in 2021.
So far huge stocks of the foodgrain with the FCI helped the government to insulate nearly 80 crore people from any increase in prices and this also prevented any sharp rise in atta prices in the open market.
Meanwhile, Nicaragua and Syria have asked for wheat imports of around 4 lakh tonnes on a government-to-government basis and the first consignment of wheat to Egypt is likely to be shipped soon.

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