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Hailstorm in the past few days in central and western India has created uncertainties for the wheat crop and quality even as the bonus announcement by the Madhya Pradesh (MP) has raised concerns about similar demands coming from other states. It has been estimated that 97.5 million tonnes (98.38 million tonnes last year) of wheat will be produced in the country, and this could be a bumper crop. It was expected to touch 100 million tonnes. Chilly weather later in the season is good for wheat but the hailstorm proved to be a dampener. As a result, the “quality of wheat which arrives early in MP and Gujarat will be affected and despite the better-quality wheat sown in these regions farmers will not benefit”, a trade analyst said. The Union food ministry has called a meeting on Thursday to chalk out grain procurement strategies, by which a target for wheat procurement may also be set. Food Corporation of India will start procurement after a month but farmers in MP have started selling early wheat despite the state declaring a bonus of Rs 200 per quintal for the 2018 rabi season. It is likely that the price deficit or the bhavantar scheme may be applied to wheat and procurement may remain low in MP, according to trade circles. Flour mills are, hence, on a stronger wicket because they will continue to get wheat of the quality they need for milling.
A miller said they were getting offers to buy wheat at lower prices but “we will wait till moisture dries before placing orders at low prices”. Devendra Vora of Navi Mumbai-based Friendship Traders said, “There are several uncertainties due to the high bonus in MP, the hailstorm, and the bumper crop. It will be a challenge for the government to keep a balance between farmers’ interests without hurting the fiscal situation.” In MP new crops containing moisture are being offered at Rs 1,650-1,800 per quintal in mandis while in Rajkot the mandi prices quoted were Rs 1,500-1,700. Export inquiries are increasing, especially for flour, from West Asia and other regions. If prices remain low, millers are likely to get big export contracts this season.