India extends 25 percent tax on wheat imports – food minister

Workers stand as a crane loads wheat onto a ship at Mundra Port in the western Indian state of Gujarat April 1, 2014.      REUTERS/Amit Dave/File Photo

India has extended a 25 percent tax on wheat imports, the food minister said on Friday, to help curb cheap shipments with domestic stockpiles rising at the world’s second-biggest wheat producer.

India in March extended the 25 percent import tax on wheat by three months to June 30. The government has approved a further extension of the import tax, Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said in a tweet, without specifying any timeline.

Wheat stocks at state-owned warehouses in India reached more than 40 million tonnes at the start of June. That is at least 12 million tonnes more than the government-set target for wheat inventory by July 1.

Despite plentiful wheat stocks at home, some flour millers near port cities in southern parts of the country have been importing the protein-rich variety of the grain mainly used to make pizzas and pasta.

Flour millers find it cheaper to import wheat from countries such as Australia than transporting local wheat from northern and central states, the grain basket of India.

Still, India’s wheat imports could surge to a decade-high in 2016/17, forcing the country to look at cutting import taxes, a leading consumer products company said last week.