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Govt may allow wheat import by private sector

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No decision yet on duty-free shipment: Pawar

Ground view
Biscuit, break makers & flour mills may be allowed to import.
High market prices preventing procurement by Centre for buffer stocks.
Centre happy on higher prices for growers.

TAKING STOCK: The Union Minister for Agriculture, Mr Sharad Pawar, with the Union Minister of State, Mr Kantilal Bhuria, and the Agriculture Secretary, Ms Radha Singh, at the NCDC General Council meeting in the Capital on Friday. — Ramesh Sharma

New Delhi , April 28

The Centre is considering allowing the user industries to directly import wheat under the Open General Licence (OGL) scheme, the Union Agriculture and Food Minister, Mr Sharad Pawar, said on Friday.

Speaking to presspersons here, Mr Pawar said: ``We are seriously considering allowing imports by actual users such as biscuit and bread manufacturers, and flour millers under the OGL.''

He, however, said a decision had not yet been taken on whether such imports by the user industries would be allowed duty-free.

Canalising agent

The Minister said the decision to allow the private sector to go in for import would be in addition to 3.5 million tonnes (mt) shipments already cleared by the Union Government. Contracts have been signed with Australia's AWB Ltd to import 0.5 mt wheat and of this 50,000 tonnes landed in Chennai this week.

The canalising agency for this purpose would be the State Trading Corporation, he said adding that the global tender for the remaining 3 mt wheat import would be finalised within a week.

Procurement shortfall

Sensing a shortfall in buffer stock levels, the Government had, in February, allowed 0.5 mt wheat import, while low level of procurement led to the decision to allow an additional 3 mt this month.

The Minister said though there was a shortfall in wheat procurement this year, the Centre was happy that farmers were getting higher market price for their produce, higher than what the minimum support price has to offer to them.

He projected the final wheat production figure to be around 72-73 mt this year, similar to last year's 72 mt.

Mr Pawar attributed low wheat procurement to the prevailing high levels of market price.

Monsoon: `Wait & watch'

Asked about the India Meteorological Department's monsoon forecast of 93 per cent normal rainfall this year, he said: ``We will have see how the monsoon actually shapes up. The situation is not that bad as has been projected. We have to wait and watch till the monsoon sets in."

IMD had predicted that the rainfall in June-September was expected to be "little below normal."

Earlier, presiding over the 62nd meeting of the General Council of the National Cooperative Development Corporation, (NCDC), Mr Pawar expressed concern of the Union Government in the declining share of credit disbursed by co-operatives.

Revised package

Based on the recommendation of the task force under the Chairmanship of Professor A. Vaidyanathan and after due consultation with the State Governments, a revised package of Rs 13,596 crore has been approved by the Union Cabinet. He said this package would be utilised to nurse co-operatives back the health and for necessary legal and institutional reforms in the co-operative sector enabling their democratic, self-reliant and efficient functioning. The Minister also informed that a similar exercise for the revival of long-term co-operative credit structure has been referred to the above committee.

The NCDC achieved an all-time high disbursal of Rs 2,300 crore during 2005-06 for various co-operative development programmes in the country.

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