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India lands 3.2 mln tonnes of wheat imports

Published on 27 November, 2006, Last updated at 11:10 GMT


NEW DELHI - India said on Monday 3.2 million tonnes of imported wheat had so far arrived at its ports against the 5.5 million tonnes contracted after a poor crop sent prices spiralling.

Despite agreeing the first imports in six years, India has also allowed the private sector to buy in wheat at zero duty.

The arrival of hundreds of thousands of tonnes of grain has put further pressure on ports already burdened with large fertiliser arrivals and exports of soymeal, delaying distribution.

A government official said last week about 50,000 tonnes of backed up wheat had been cleared in the past month from the two western ports of Mundra and Kandla, and around 350,000 tonnes still on the docks were being tackled.

Minister of State for Agriculture Akhilesh Prasad Singh told parliament on Monday that a plan has been finalised to remove the imported wheat from the ports.

The farm ministry said in addition to the 3.2 million tonnes of wheat that has already arrived, five vessels with 276,644 tonnes were scheduled to arrive by the end of November.

Higher wheat prices have encouraged farmers to grow more wheat this year, and the farm ministry said on Monday wheat for the summer harvest had been sown over 11.4 million hectares between Nov. 1-24 against 9.7 million hectares during the year ago period.

It annually grows wheat over about 26 million hectares.

Significantly higher coverage has been reported in the states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab and Rajasthan, the ministry said.

India grows only one wheat crop in a year with sowing in the winter months of November and December, and harvests from March.

The ministry said while the area under wheat planting had gone up, the coverage under oilseeds was down to 7.48 million hectares, compared with 8.16 million at the same time a year ago.

The area under rapeseed/mustard, the main summer harvested oilseed crop has dropped by seven percent to 5.77 million hectares because of a preference for wheat and legumes.


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