India trade body and government spar over state of wheat crop

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Photo courtesy - Asian Development Bank

The Indian government slammed a key industry body for issuing a “factually incorrect” report estimating wheat production to be lower because recent rain and hailstorm are believed to have affected the harvest.

Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh criticised the Associated Chambers of Commerce of India (Assocham) for the report, saying incorrect information was being given out to compel the government to reduce import duty on wheat.

The Assocham report said wheat production could fall by 13 million tonnes from an earlier estimate of 93.8 million tonnes, forcing the government to consider imports of the staple grain.

“The recent untimely rains and hailstorm in some parts of the country have caused some damage but, as per present assessment (made by the government agencies), production of wheat in the country would still be around 92-93 million tonnes which is substantially higher than the wheat production of 86.53 million tonnes during 2014-15,” Singh said in a statement.

Singh played down concerns about food inflation, saying the government had enough stocks of wheat.

Assocham said the emerging wheat situation in the country was alarming in view of the expected lower crop, depleting stocks and the erratic weather threatening the crop further.

It called on the government to import duty-free wheat and urged authorities to cut the wheat import tax to 5-10 percent from 25 percent now.

 

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