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India floats global tender for wheat
India on Friday floated a global tender for the import of 500,000 tonnes of wheat in a bid to overcome a supply squeeze and spiraling domestic prices.

The tender will close at noon on Feb. 20 and the wheat has to be delivered to five designated south Indian ports between March and the middle of May, the State Trading Corporation said.

India earlier this month said it would seek imports to boost supplies, offset inflationary pressure and ensure food security.

It is the first time since 1999 that the government has resorted to importing duty free wheat in southern India, where open market prices have been rising in states that do not grow the grain.

India levies a 70 percent duty on wheat imports, making it unviable for private traders to bring in the grain.

The tender said the wheat should be fit for human consumption and of the current 2005/06 crop of any country of origin.

Detailing the schedule, the tender said 110,000 tonnes of wheat would be received at Mangalore, 100,000 tonnes each at Chennai and Tuticorin, 120,000 tonnes at Cochin and 70,000 tonnes at Vishakhapatnam.

"The arrival of the imported wheat should be between March 2006 and mid-May 2006 with at least 250,000 to 300,000 tonnes arrival by April," the tender said.

Traders had been expecting India, a wheat exporter in recent years, to order imports after grain agencies cut procurement, but officials had said they were confident they would not be needed.

Food Minister Sharad Pawar said last week wheat prices in most parts of the country were under control with the government releasing additional stocks into the open market, but prices in southern India remained high.

He said wheat prices in south Indian markets were ranging around 1,100 rupees to 1,200 rupees per 100 kg, compared with close to 900 rupees in rest of the country.

The country had wheat stocks of around 4.7 million tonnes on Feb. 1.

The government has estimated India's new crop wheat output at around 74 to 75 million tonnes. Last year, the country's wheat output dropped to about 72 million tonnes due to poor weather.

The government plans to procure 16.2 million tonnes of wheat in the new marketing season that begins in April, sharply up from 14.8 million tonnes it bought from farmers a year ago.

India's wheat crop is sown in November and December and harvesting begins in April in the main northern growing states of Punjab and Haryana. Harvesting for the early grown varieties in Madhya Pradesh begins in late February.
MGR Archive 13.2.2006
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