India has no plans to import wheat for now – trade minister

By Mayank Bhardwaj and Shivangi Acharya

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India does not plan to import wheat and its farmers are likely to harvest a bumper crop that will boost stockpiles in the world’s second-biggest producer of the staple, the trade minister said on Saturday.

“Ground reports indicate that the crop is quite good and this year’s production is expected at a record 114 million metric tons,” Piyush Goyal told reporters.

India banned wheat exports in 2022 after output was curtailed due to a heat wave, but more recently overseas sales picked up as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sent global prices to multi-year highs.

The government has sold around 6 million metric tons of wheat to local bulk buyers since June. 1, when the state-run Food Corporation of India started selling the grain from its warehouses.

Despite selling wheat from its granaries, inventories at state warehouses are likely to remain above the target of 7.46 million metric tons fixed for April 1, when a new marketing year starts, a top government official said earlier this month.

The country’s wheat stocks at state warehouses stood at 16.47 million metric tons as of Jan. 1, the lowest since 2017.

Goyal said India would for now continue with its export curbs on wheat, rice and sugar.

“We are committed to protecting both consumers’ and farmers’ interests,” he said.

India, also the world’s second-biggest rice producer, last year banned overseas shipments of non-basmati white rice. And New Delhi has also stopped mills from exporting sugar this year.

Goyal also said his government has no immediate plans to allow duty-free imports of corn – also known as maize in India – turning down the poultry industry’s demands.

“Farmers will plant more maize this year,” he said.

(Reporting by Mayank Bhardwaj and Shivangi Acharya; Editing by David Holmes)