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India mops up only 800,000 T in huge wheat tender
MUMBAI (Reuters) - India, after days of haggling with key bidders, finalised contracts on Friday for the purchase of 800,000 tonnes of wheat from two firms, just above 25 percent of its three-million-tonne import tender.

Farm Minister Sharad Pawar said the government would float fresh tenders for about 2.3 million tonnes of wheat which it is seeking to replenish depleted buffer stocks.

Pawar said the response to the latest tender had been much lower than expectations. Traders have blamed stringent conditions applied to the tenders for the lack of interest.

The validity of the 3 million-tonne tender had to be extended to Friday from Tuesday due to haggling over prices and quantities to be supplied.

The purchases fall far short of government expectations as the tender received a lukewarm response and only two bidders Australia's AWB Ltd and Russian-owned Agrico Trade and Finance met the quality criteria. Bids from six other companies were rejected.

Officials of the State Trading Corporation, which floated the tender, and the food ministry negotiated to increase the volume of wheat and whittle down prices, but with little success.

AWB, which had offered to sell 1.2 million tonnes, will supply 500,000 tonnes at $187 per tonne C&F at the western port of Mundhra. Agrico will offer 300,000 tonnes between $198.20-$199.20 per tonne C&F, a government official told Reuters.

The shipments would arrive between July and October.

AWB, which had won an earlier tender to supply 500,000 tonnes of the grain in March, has so far sent only a fifth of that quantity. The remaining amount has not been cleared as it has failed to meet stringent quality criteria.

When asked whether flour mills would be allowed to mport wheat, Pawar told reporters the government wanted to first complete purchases aimed at replenishing its reserve stocks before taking any decision.

Traders said the shortfall will mean wheat prices would remain on a bullish curve for at least two-to-three months.

"The government will have to relax the terms when it floats the new import tender. Otherwise, it will have to keep depending on one or two bidders, " said a north India based trader.

Pawar told parliament last month that wheat procurement was likely to fall sharply to 9.5 million tonnes, from last year's 14.7 million tonnes.
MGR Archive 4.6.2006
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