Even as the state wheat reserves have declined and consumer wheat inflation is prevailing at about 12 per cent, government authorities are making preparations to buy from overseas and cut or abolish a 40 per cent import tax on wheat to help flour millers in some regions to import the grain, according to media reports.
Retail wheat inflation has remained above 9 per cent year-on-year since April and rose to 11.7 per cent in July, while wholesale prices jumped 13.6 per cent in July, according to official data. According to a Bloomberg report, the looming shortage and rising prices now have authorities making preparations to buy from overseas.
Recently, news agency Reuters reported that India could scrap a 40 per cent duty on wheat imports and cap the amount of stocks traders can hold to try to dampen record high domestic prices in the world’s second-biggest producer.
In March this year, a record-breaking heat wave threatened India’s wheat output. This pushed the prices of wheat upwards in the country. The daily average retail price of wheat had then increased 19.34 per cent to Rs 29.49 per kg, compared with Rs 24.71 per kg a year ago. Subsequently, in May, the government banned the export of wheat with immediate effect, to control food prices in the domestic market.
Earlier this month, the government also restricted the exports of maida, semolina and all variants of wheat flour (atta), effective August 14. Their exports are now allowed subject to clearance from the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on Wheat Exports.
“The export policy of items [wheat flour (atta), Maida, Samolina (Rava/ Sirgi), wholemeal atta and resultant atta] under HS Code 1101 remains ‘Free’, but export shall be subject to the recommendation of the inter-ministerial committee (IMC) constituted for allowing export of wheat. The provisions as under Para 1.05 of the Foreign Trade Policy 2015-20 regarding transitional arrangement shall not be applicable under this Notification. Necessary modalities with regard to quality of these items will be notified separately,” according to a DGFT order.
Last month also, the Centre restricted the export of plain atta amid the global supply disruptions in wheat. The DGFT had said, “Global supply disruptions in wheat and wheat flour have created many new players and has led to price fluctuations and potential quality-related issues. Therefore, it is imperative to maintain the quality of wheat flour exports from India.”
India’s wheat flour exports during FY22 rose sharply in tandem with wheat exports. In the financial year 2021-22, the country exported a record over 7 million tonnes of wheat, worth around $2.12 billion, which in value terms was 274 per cent more than the same period last year.
Recently, wheat prices in India recently rose about 14 per cent in one and a half month. It was because of the high demand from millers who will make products like maida, biscuits, flour and suji, and supply issues due to the monsoon season. The price of mill-delivered wheat in the country’s northern region rose from a low of Rs 2,260-2,270 a quintal in June to Rs 2,300-2,350 recently.