New Delhi: The Center on Saturday took a number of steps, including tightening restrictions on wheat exports. However, Food Secretary Sudhanshu Pandey said, “Global demand was increasing and various countries were imposing restrictions. Emotions were pushing up prices. We are confident that now sentiments will bring down prices.”
Within hours of the announcement of the measures, local traders claimed that prices had begun to soften. According to the Roller Flour Millers Federation of India, prices have come down by Rs 100-150 per quintal in many states. “We are directing the wheat trade in a certain direction. We do not want wheat to go uncontrollably to places where it can only be stored or where it is not used for the purpose for which we hope it will be used. Commerce Secretary BVR Subramaniam, while explaining the rationale for placing exports under the “restricted” category.
On Friday, TOI was the first to report on the proposed export restrictions after a discussion in the cabinet headed by Home Minister Amit Shah.
This year, as private traders enter the market on a large scale, government procurement for the food security program is expected to fall by almost 57% to 185 lakh tonnes, the lowest in at least 13 years. Just a month ago, high exports, known as the main focus, led to lower yields by the government, adding to the global supply disruptions due to crop losses due to the early onset of summer.
However, Pandey tried to ensure that there was enough stock to meet local needs. The stock was estimated at 190 lakh tonnes in early April against a buffer requirement of 75 lakh tonnes.
In addition to controlling exports, the government introduced other measures by further reducing the allocation of wheat to the states under the National Food Security Act (NFSA). Earlier, it had reduced wheat allocation by 60% for 11 states under PM Garib Kalyan Yojana, which is operational till September. On Friday, the food ministry again revised the wheat allocation for 10 states under the Food Security Scheme, NFSA. This standard will be applicable till March, 2023. According to the revised norms, the total allocation of wheat to these states under NFSA will be 9.4 lakh tonnes per month till March, which is about 40 less than the earlier allocation of 15.4 lakh tonnes. %. This will save an estimated 110 lakh tonnes of additional wheat which can be made available in stock by the government to meet any requirements.
While the government maintained that it had not banned the export of wheat, a directive from the Directorate General of Foreign Trade stated that shipments outside the country would be approved on a government-to-government basis in sensitive and neighboring countries. In addition, exports for which indefinite letters of credit have been issued will be allowed.
Officials clarified that this would allow exports to neighboring countries such as Bangladesh and Nepal, but would not allow goods to China and Pakistan. Amid reports that China is stockpiling wheat and other foodgrains due to the surge in global prices, Subramaniam declined to comment on the issue.