SINGAPORE India could face tight wheat supplies in the weeks ahead as 400,000 tonnes of Ukrainian cargoes, booked for December, are expected to be delayed, traders said, just when the South Asian country was boosting stockpiles.
India on Thursday scrapped its 10 percent import duty on wheat after droughts in the past two years depleted stocks and raised prices, a move traders said could lift overseas purchases to their highest in a decade.
India, which has been snapping up Australian and Black Sea wheat cargoes in recent weeks, was expecting the shipments from Ukraine to arrive this month, but traders now say they might reach India by January.
Ukraine is in the middle of peak corn exports while wheat shipment season is nearly over.
"Ukrainian exporters are giving more importance to ship corn. Ships to load wheat are just waiting," one New Delhi-based trader said.
The late arrival of ships from the Black Sea could make it difficult for Indian ports next month when Australian wheat cargoes are also due.
"Everything will arrive at the same time and Indian ports will not be able to handle such influx," said one Singapore trader, who is among the suppliers hit by delays.
"We will have delays in unloading ships."
In the past month, Indian importers have purchased about 500,000 tonnes of wheat, largely from Australia, as the country continues its large import programme.
Elsewhere, Philippine mills recently bought 50,000 tonnes of Australian wheat at about $202 a tonne, free on board, for shipment in January, traders said.
(Reporting by Naveen Thukral; Editing by Manolo Serapio Jr.)