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India refuses to sell its surplus wheat to Turkey and Iran

18 February 20203 min reading

ThePrint, Indian digital news online-newspaper, claimed that Turkey and Iran had requested India to buy its wheat but the Modi government refused to sell the grain due to the two countries’ criticism of the Modi’s decision to revoke Jammu and Kashmir’s special status.

With the Food Corporation of India’s (FCI) godowns overflowing with wheat, the agriculture ministry has requested Egypt to add Indian wheat to its list of acceptable imports. “India has requested Egypt to add wheat to the list of acceptable imports, considering the country is the world’s largest importer of wheat,” an official in the agriculture ministry told ThePrint. Egypt, the official added, was already looking out to import wheat. “Egypt’s main wheat buying agency General Authority For Supply Commodities is looking for purchase of 600,000 MT of soft/milling wheat for shipment for April 2020 and India is eyeing this contract,” said the official, who did not wish to be named. Egypt usually prefers to import soft white/red winter wheat from the United States and Canada. The country also imports wheat from Russia, Australia, Romania and Ukraine.

ThePrint has also claimed that Turkey and Iran had requested India to buy its wheat, and written to the Modi government in this regard in December. But the agriculture ministry did not respond to the proposals, sources familiar with the matter said.

The FCI godowns at present have a stock of 32.8 million tonnes of wheat as compared to 27.12 million tonnes in 2018. This is partly a result of the area under wheat cultivation having increased over the last year, resulting in an estimated 6.27 per cent rise in wheat production. Added to this is the FCI’s target of selling 10 million tonnes of wheat to bulk consumers in the 2019-20 fiscal, which is over 40 per cent more than the previous year’s target of 7 million tonnes. “In January, when the wheat stock increased, it forced the government to cut down the base price of wheat in its weekly auction scheme. India then reached out to Egypt requesting it to consider importing our wheat,” the agriculture ministry official quoted above said.

According to documents accessed by ThePrint, Turkey and Iran wrote to the Modi government in the third week of December, requesting to buy wheat. Turkey needs wheat to meet its increased export targets of pasta and wheat flour while Iran, reeling from the US sanctions, is desperately looking to import food grains. According to the documents, Iran and Turkey requested to import 630,000 metric tonnes (MT) and 60,000 MT of wheat from India, respectively. India, however, did not respond to their wheat import proposals, which were eventually scrapped by the end of December.

“Turkey was ready to accept Indian wheat at $300 per tonne despite it being around $50/tonne higher than Russian wheat, as it needed grain to meet its increased export targets of pasta and wheat flour,” a source in the agriculture ministry told ThePrint. The proposals were scrapped considering the two countries’ criticism of the Modi government’s decisions to revoke Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and enactment of the Citizenship Amendment Act, the source added. THEPRINT

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