India to continue rice, wheat exports despite poor rains

NEW DELHI Tue Sep 11, 2012 12:52pm IST

A worker displays rotten wheat grains at a godown on the outskirts of Amritsar in Punjab June 28, 2012. REUTERS/Munish Sharma

A worker displays rotten wheat grains at a godown on the outskirts of Amritsar in Punjab June 28, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Munish Sharma

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NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India is likely to continue exports of wheat and rice despite worries over output because of poor monsoon rains, Food Minister K.V. Thomas said on Tuesday, as the country has ample stocks from last year's harvest and wants to stabilise trade policy.

India, the world's second-biggest producer of rice and wheat, has received 8 percent lower rainfall than average since the beginning of the monsoon season on June 1 in what has turned out to be a drought year.

"We are working on a mechanism to have a stable export-import policy on select farm commodities such as rice, wheat and sugar," Thomas said, adding, the policy will benefit both farmers and the industry.

India lifted a four-year old ban on wheat and common grade rice exports by private traders in September 2011 after the government granaries swelled. The government has also permitted 2 million tonnes of wheat exports from its own warehouses.

Wheat stocks at government warehouses on August 1 were 47.5 million tonnes, more than three times the official target of 17.1 million tonnes for the quarter ending September.

Rice inventory for the same period was 28.5 million tonnes against a target of 9.8 million tonnes.

Poor monsoon rainfall in key oilseeds and pulses growing regions is likely to hit their output, Thomas told reporters on the sidelines of a conference.

The expected drop in output pushed up local edible oil prices to record highs last month, while prices for summer-sown pulses also surged, helped also by demand ahead of key festivals.

The country relies on imports of pulses and edible oils to meet local consumption.

India's total edible oil imports in the current year ending October 31 could rise 13 percent to 9.5 million tonnes, while next year it may rise by as much as 10 percent if the poor monsoon cuts planting and hurts yields of oilseeds, said the country's leading edible oil importer in July.

The country is the world's biggest importer of edible oils and buys most of its requirement in the form of palm oil from Malaysia and Indonesia.

India annually imports around 3 million tonnes of pulses, mostly yellow peas, chickpeas and pigeon peas.

(Reporting by Mayank Bhardwaj and Ratnajyoti Dutta: Writing by Rajendra Jadhav; Editing by Jo Winterbottom and Himani Sarkar)

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