July 10, 2016 / 10:01 AM / 4 years ago

India allows imports of 500,000 tonnes of duty-free, non-GM corn

A farmer removes weeds from her corn field in Kolkata, India, February 28, 2016. To match INDIA-BUDGET. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri/Files

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India has asked a government-backed trader to import an extra half a million tonnes of duty-free, non-genetically modified corn to keep a lid on domestic prices and overcome any shortage, the trade ministry said on Sunday.

India, which allows cultivation and consumption of only genetically modified cotton crop, has had difficulty in sourcing non-GM corn in late 2015 and earlier this year, and New Delhi had to drop the plan to import more.

Trade and industry experts have already voiced their concerns over India’s ability to find non-GM corn, which only a handful of countries such as Ukraine grow.

To check prices and prevent hoarding, Trade Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has approved imports of 500,000 tonnes of corn, the trade ministry said in a Tweet.

Government sources on June 22 said India was considering importing 500,000 tonnes of corn to bolster local supplies after a second straight drought cut output.

Indian farmers grow corn twice a year. The winter crop is planted in October, with harvests in March and April. The summer crop planting has started, but supplies will become available only from end-September.

The government plans to import corn on behalf of major consumers like the poultry industry and starch manufacturers.

Reporting by Mayank Bhardwaj; Editing by Ryan Woo

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