Press Trust of india

Spike in wheat prices due to speculative trade; govt to act against hoarders: Food Secy

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New Delhi:  India has enough wheat stock but the spike in retail prices is due to speculating trading, Food Secretary Sudanshu Pandey said on Monday and warned of taking stringent action against hoarders.

Retail prices of wheat have risen by 19 per cent to Rs 31.02 per kg from Rs 26.01 per kg a year-ago. Wheat flour price too have increased by 18 per cent to Rs 36 per kg in the same period.

The inflationary trend in wheat has forced the government not only to ban export of the crop but also impose curbs on outbound shipment of some by-products of wheat.

Addressing the 82nd AGM of Roller Flour Millers Federation of India, Pandey said the Centre has options to check hoarding of wheat stock by making it mandatory for traders to disclose the stock held by them, besides imposing stock holding limit on both retailers and wholesalers.

“There is no problem of wheat availability within the country. Overall quantity which we need for domestic requirement is available in the country,” he said.

He also said state-run Food Corporation of India has comfortable wheat stock position at 24 million tonnes.

However, the secretary said, “There has been an impact on prices because of speculative trading” and added that speculators have hoarded wheat in anticipation of further price rise.

Wheat is being released in the market by traders and speculators in small quantities and they are still hoarding in anticipation of price rise, he added.

“We will take steps if needed to bring out the grain into the market,” he said.

To check hoarding and black marketing, the secretary noted that the requirements of disclosure of wheat stocks by traders could be the first stage before imposition of stock limits.

Pandey further said the government’s wheat production forecast is around 105 million tonnes in the rabi season of 2021-22 crop year (July-June) while the trade estimates are 95-98 million tonnes.

Even if trade estimates are to be believed, Pandey said the production is enough to meet the domestic demand.

The country has exported 4.5 million tonnes of wheat so far this fiscal year. Out of that, 2.1 million tonnes were shipped before imposition of ban on wheat exports on May 13. There is no further scope of export in the remaining months of this fiscal year.

India exported 7.2 million tonnes of wheat in the previous fiscal year.

The government is also making efforts to raise wheat production in the coming rabi (winter sown) season.

India’s wheat production is estimated to have declined to 106.84 million tonnes in 2021-22 crop year from 109.6 million tonnes in the previous year due to heat waves in certain states like Punjab and Haryana.

The government’s wheat procurement fell drastically to around 19 million tonnes in the 2022-23 marketing year (April-March) compared to 43 million tonnes in the previous year.

Earlier addressing the AGM, Pandey told flour millers to work with wheat growers to improve the crop productivity by supplying good inputs and inculcating best farm practices.

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