With the domestic production of wheat projected to dip by 3 million tones (mt) from the official estimates of 97 mt, India may import 1.5 mt of wheat in the marketing year 2018-19, a new report prepared for the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) said. "Despite lower planting, the (Indian) government's preliminary estimate forecasts 2018 wheat production optimistically at a near-record 97 mt; they expect a further increase in yield over last year's record yield despite adverse planting conditions. However, most trade sources are currently estimating the crop in the range of 91-94 mt," said India Grain and Feed Annual 2018 report prepared by USDA Foreign Agricultural Service staff in Delhi. According to the USDA officials, India imported 5.9 mt and 2 mt in 2016-17 and 2017-18 respectively. "Unfavourable late season weather conditions and consequent decline in the upcoming harvest may improve import prospects, while any further rise in import duty may push the forecast for imports lower," the report said. In November last year, the government hiked the import duty of wheat to 20 per cent from existing 10 per cent, in order to discourage imports as the prospects of a good output looked up.
India, which turned into a net importer of wheat in 2016-17 and continued importing in 2017-18, may import mostly quality wheat for south India millers, who may find imports more economical than buying from the domestic market as prices may go up after the marketing season is over in August this year, the report said.