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Friday, Oct 06, 2006

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Wheat imports keep Chennai, Tuticorin ports busy

Raja Simhan T.E.

Record consignment
State Trading Corporation to import 55-lakh tonnes of wheat.
Tuticorin port has so far handled 3.05 lakh tonnes.
`Record performance of wheat handling this year.'

Chennai , Oct. 5

Tuticorin and Chennai ports will handle record consignment of wheat this year. This is due to the 55-lakh tonnes of wheat that the State Trading Corporation will import from various countries, including Russia, and increased import by private buyers, according to sources.

The Tuticorin port handled 3.05 lakh tonnes of wheat. Of this around 1.5 lakh tonnes was the STC cargo for Food Corporation of India (FCI) and the other half was wheat imported by private buyers, according to Mr N.K. Raghupathy, Chairman, Tuticorin Port Trust.

Cheaper port

"We are likely to handle about a million tonnes of wheat this year. We are handling about a lakh tonnes a month," he told Business Line. The port handled eight wheat ships (four for FCI and four for private importers) and three more are working at berths. The port is expecting two more wheat ships to arrive in the next few days, Mr Raghupathy said.

According to him, due to faster turnaround of ships the cost of handling them is cheaper at Tuticorin compared to other ports. Further, wharfage cost of Rs 28.40 a tonne for wheat and cheap labour costs makes the port more competitive than others, he said. "We have provided a lot of facilities and space for wheat handling," he said.

The port trust provided four warehouses and two transits sheds and even during peak handling some of the sheds were not adequately used. This shows the fast turnaround of the cargo. The port trust also provided around 30,000 sq m of space to FCI on the wharf to store wheat. Private buyers were also provided space outside the port premises for quick clearance of the cargo, he said.

The Chennai port handled around 3 lakh tonnes of wheat for FCI in the lasts four months, and is likely to handle another 3 lakh tonnes in the next four or five months. Around one lakh tonnes of wheat has gone to North East. The port is handling two ships a month.

"It is going to be a record performance of wheat handling this year," according to Mr K. Suresh, Chairman, Chennai Port Trust.

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