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Wheat export ban will help control food prices: Govt

Commerce ministry says the ban will strengthen India's food security

Wheat farmer Representational image | PTI

The government on Saturday said that its decision to restrict wheat exports will control the food prices and strengthen the food security of the country. It said India remains a reliable supplier as it is honouring all contracts.

On Friday, the Commerce Ministry imposed a ban on wheat export with immediate effect. However, it has allowed wheat shipments with valid irrevocable letters of credit (LoC) issued on or before the date of the notification.

According to the ministry, directing the wheat exports through government channels would not only ensure fulfilling the genuine needs of India's neighbours and other food-deficit countries but also control inflationary expectations. 

“Apart from the food security of India, the Government is committed to ensuring food security of neighbours and vulnerable countries,” Commerce Secretary B.V.R. Subrahmanyam said, addressing a press conference in Delhi on Saturday.

He said that the government’s order on exports was giving a clear direction to the wheat market. “We do not want wheat to go in an unregulated manner in places where it might just get either hoarded or it may not serve the purpose of serving the food requirements of vulnerable nations. That’s why government to government window has been kept opened,” he said.

Food Secretary Sudhanshu Pandey said the country has adequate food stocks.

He added that after consulting with the states, the Centre has reallocated some quantities by changing ratios of wheat and rice. For example, states getting wheat and rice in the ratio of 60:40 will get it in the ratio of 40:60. Similarly, the ratio of 75:25 is made 60:40. Where rice allocation was zero, they will continue to get wheat. For all small states-NE states and special category states, allocation has not been changed.

“With this, we have boosted the availability of wheat to about 110-111 LMT more. Adding it to 185 LMT, it become 296 LMT which is almost as last year’s,” Pandey said.

Manoj Ahuja, the Agriculture Secretary, said heat waves had affected wheat crops especially in North-Western India this year, but the difference is in availability compared to last year is marginal.

“Last year the production figures of wheat were 109 LMT for the country. This year in February, we have come out with advanced estimates for this year’s production and we have estimated 111 LMT.  Our estimates shows 105-106 LMT of wheat availability this year and we are quite same in terms of quantity and availability as last year,” he added.

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