Wheat imports: Millers pitch for imports amidst quality concerns

We are importing high quality wheat in order to meet the parameters for end products, and imposition of import duty, will make wheat-based food products costlier for Indian consumers, says Veena Sharma, Secretary, Roller Flour Millers’ Federation of India (RFMFI)

By Sai Nikesh D

Keeping in view the consumers’ interests, Indian Flour Millers Federation, on Friday, urged Government of India not to impose duty on wheat imports.

Veena Sharma, Secretary, Roller Flour Millers’ Federation of India (RFMFI), confirmed this, while also informing that an official representation was submitted to the government in this regard.

Speaking further, she said “We have not imported anything in the last one decade. However, the importing situation occurred as a result of the sale of sub-standard quality wheat to millers.”

“Government relaxed procurement norms and procured rain-affected sub-standard quality wheat, which is being sold to the millers. When we get sub-standard quality wheat under Open Market Sale Scheme (OMSS), naturally, the quality products cannot be processed, for which, we need better wheat quality for blending. Hence, we are importing high quality wheat in order to meet the parameters for end products,” she noted.

In this case, imposition of import duty will enhance cost and make wheat-based food products costlier for Indian consumers, she added.

In a move to curb shipments and settle poor quality grains lying in storage go downs, Government of India, in the last week, had proposed to impose 10% import duty on wheat imports. Currently there is no import duty on wheat imports.

The Food Corporation of India has procured 27.6 million tonnes of wheat so far in the current marketing year that started from April, however, the corporation had to procure poor quality wheat due to relaxed norms for procurement of the grain this year.

Sluggish demand for high quality wheat domestically enabled private flour millers to look at imports which happened for the first time in a decade and the millers were said to have contracted for import of 5,00,000 tonnes of wheat from Australia and plans are also underway over purchase of another 5,00,000 tonnes from France and Russia.

This article was published in The Dollar Business on July 3, 2015

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