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Wheat exporters' concessions withdrawn
ISLAMABAD ,Pakistan has withdrawn wheat export concessions to private traders, apparently scrapping its export promotion plan, due to lower output, industry officials and exporters said on Wednesday.
Tighter supplies this year mean Pakistan might have to import about 500,000 tonnes wheat, industry officials said.
An agriculture ministry official said that the government was allowing private traders to export wheat but had withdrawn their concessions, and had barred state-run grain trading agencies from selling abroad.
"It will definitely hit wheat exports but our domestic needs are more important than exports," the official said.
"We don't see any exports next season after this decision."
The government, under its export refund policy, previously paid to exporters Rs 2,500 per tonne after shipment, to help cover the cost of transport and cleaning of wheat.
But the export programme was temporarily halted in May as dry summer weather slashed yields, industry officials said.
Hamid Gharib, chairman of Pakistan's Wheat Exporters Association, told Reuters that Pakistan is now out of world wheat trade.
"We are out of the market," he said. "Exporters will now quote a selling price of not less than $170 to $172 per tonne, which is totally uncompetitive."
Pakistan began wheat exports in 2001 and found big markets in the Middle East and Africa. It also exported to Europe and Southeast Asia.
According to agriculture ministry figures, 1.70 million tonnes wheat was exported during 2002/03.
Latest estimates put wheat output at about 19.25 million tonnes for the 2003/04 crop year, down from an initial estimate of 19.70 million tonnes, and compared with 18.22 million tonnes last year.
With carry-over stocks of more than one million tonnes from last year, total availability this year is estimated at 20.24 million tonnes, with consumption seen at 19.78 million tonnes.
But the government likes to keep a strategic reserve of one million tonnes, which would mean a shortfall of more than 500,000 tonnes.
"They usually keep at least one million tonnes as strategic reserve, which means by the end of the year 585,000 tonnes will be needed to meet domestic demand," one wheat researcher at a state-run research centre said.
The researcher said a considerable quantity of wheat would be needed for the next sowing season, while smuggling to Afghanistan and Iran would also reduce supplies.
The researcher said the agriculture ministry had indicated no exports next year in its wheat industry figures, while anticipating a shortfall of more than 500,000 tonnes.
MGR Archive 19.6.2003
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