Government considering import duty on wheat: Agri Secretary
The Dollar Business Bureau
The Government of India is considering levying duty on wheat imports in order to safeguard the farmers amid the predictions of a record production this year, the Agriculture Secretary Shobhana K Pattanayak said on Wednesday.
On December 8th last year, the government had reduced the customs duty on the imports of wheat to nil from 10% in order to boost availability of the grain in the domestic market and to check the retail prices.
With the country now set to have a record output of 96.64 million tonnes of wheat in the current crop year of 2016-17 (July-June), there are apprehensions that the prices will come under pressure when the new crop reaches the market.
“Whether to propose import duty on wheat is in the final stage of consideration. The ministry is considering it. That is under process,” the Secretary told journalists on the sidelines of an event organised by Assocham.
Currently, the arrival of new crop of wheat has started in Madhya Pradesh. The wheat is still to reach the market from other states, Pattanayak said.
With regard to wheat prices, he said presently, the prices of wheat are ruling beyond minimum support price (MSP).
Government-run Food Corporation of India (FCI) will procure on a huge scale in order to ensure minimum support price to farmers,” he added.
The Ministry of Food is also keeping a close watch on the arrival of the new crop. However, the Ministry has not decided to restrict imports as it first wants to analyse the new crop availability and its prices before taking a final decision.
Last month, Ram Vilas Paswan, Minister of Food had said, “The way this government has taken measures in the case of pulses, the farmers are getting MSP, and all possible steps will be taken for wheat-growing farmers. If needed, raising import duty will be considered.”
“Around 30-40 lakh tonnes of wheat has been imported, within 2 months after the reduction in the customs duty. Over 55 lakh tonnes have been imported during the current financial year,” he had said.
Wheat production in the country is projected at record 96.64 million tonnes in the crop year 2016-17 compared to 92.29 million tonnes in the crop year 2015-16 due to good monsoon.