Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Indian Ministry Continues to Defer Wheat Export Ban

Unlike Russia, India still has not lifted its wheat export ban despite a nearly 2 year period of time having passed. Ministers are understandably concerned about volatile food prices in one of the world's most populous nations. There is less room for error compared to the former CIS states - the population of a single Indian province is more than the combined total of Russia. Except for limited exceptions the ban still stands.

Talking Points India Food Minister Favors More Time To Export Wheat Products
India's food ministry is in favor of giving traders more time for exports of around 500,000 metric tons of wheat products that were left unsold out of 650,000 tons permitted to ship abroad, Food Minister K.V. Thomas said.

India allowed private traders to export wheat products for a limited period in 2009 and the program was extended in phases until March 31, 2011 after the industry failed to meet the target. Roller flour millers have now sought time until March 31, 2012 to ship the entire quantity.

"We won't oppose [giving more time for] wheat product exports because we, in fact, encourage value-addition. So we may agree on wheat product exports, although we may not agree on grain exports," Thomas told Dow Jones Newswires.

A ministerial panel will decide on the issue, he added, but didn't say when the panel will meet.

Traders said a more-than-two-year ban until mid-2009 on wheat product exports resulted in clients shifting to other suppliers.

"India needs to have a long-term policy on wheat product exports and there should be no restriction on either the quantity or the period of exports," said Veena Sharma, secretary of the Roller Flour Mills Federation of India.

She said maintaining a ban on wheat exports will not only help ensure steady local supplies, but also keep down prices that will give an edge to India's exports of value-added wheat products.

Denmark, the Middle East, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Nepal and the Maldives are the main buyers of Indian wheat products such as semolina and wheat flour that are used to make bread and bakery items.

India is expecting a record wheat output of 84.27 million tons this crop year through June, up from 80.8 million tons last year. Government officials say the final output may exceed the estimate by up to 2.0 million tons.

The country's food stocks swelled to nearly triple its buffer requirement of 59.13 million tons as of May 1, triggering speculation the government may consider limited grain exports to free up storage space.

But, Thomas said his ministry isn't in favor of grain exports as the government intends to enact a law that will widen subsidized grain sales to the poor. Still, India allows limited shipments to honor diplomatic requests from some countries.

India will export 250,000 tons of wheat to Afghanistan, out of which 100,000 tons have already been shipped, he said. It is also likely to ship to Bangladesh 300,000 tons of parboiled rice, approved in August 2010, within a month, he added.

Source: CME News for Tomorrow

The Bottom Line: India continues to behave cautiously in world grain markets despite a seasonal low in wheat approaching. Its large population and low per capita incomes make it vulnerable to supply shocks.
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