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ITC hopes wheat imports to remain near decade high

Pratik Parija / New Delhi 29 Mar 17 | 03:52 AM

India’s wheat imports are likely to remain near the highest in a decade, as the world’s second-biggest producer seeks to replenish stockpiles slashed by El Nino-induced drought, according to ITC. Imports may reach 3 million tonnes in 2017-18, S Sivakumar, CEO of the ITC's agriculture business division, said. That would be the second-highest level in the past decade, although down from estimates for 5.5 million tonnes in 2016-17. India is seeking to rebuild stockpiles that likely plunged 44 per cent in March from a year earlier to 9.43 million tonnes, according to state-run Food Corp. India has been purchasing high-protein grain from Australia, Russia and Ukraine. 

The world’s second-biggest consumer of wheat on Tuesday imposed a 10 per cent duty on imports after scrapping the tax in December.

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"Low stocks mean imports," said Sivakumar, who last year predicted both the jump in imports and the duty reduction. "It makes sense for the south Indian mills to import while the government should keep buying in northern India. That's how they can protect consumers as well as farmers. Overall the supply and demand should be balanced."

This year's harvest, which began mid-March, is likely to rise to 95 million tons, and may reach as high as 96 million tons if the weather is good, Sivakumar said. That compares with the government's estimate for record 96.6 million tons. Sivakumar's estimate for imports includes 1 million tons contracted this year. 


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