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India Eyes First Wheat Exports In Six Years

India, the world’s second-biggest wheat producer, is likely to export the grain for the first time in six years after bumper harvests boosted stocks, a leading grains trader said Feb. 17.

The country will harvest 76.5 million tonnes of wheat this year, just 1.6 per cent below official estimates, Vijay Iyengar, managing director of Singapore-based Agrocorp International, told Reuters.

Higher-than-normal temperatures in India’s main wheat-growing areas in January had raised concerns about a bigger fall in output but recent showers have cooled the region and helped the crop, Indian officials say.

“There was some heat stress, so the output will be around 76.5 million tonnes,” he said on the sidelines of a grains conference in Singapore.

India’s Farm Ministry recently estimated the country would produce 77.8 million tonnes of wheat in 2009, almost the same as last year’s record harvest of the crop, which is seeded in October and harvested from March.

“They will have to export around one million tonnes as they have had very good procurement last year and they need to take care of the new crop,” Iyengar added.

India last exported wheat in 2003-04 and imported the commodity for two years from 2006.

The nation’s entry into the world wheat market could further depress prices which have fallen nearly 60 per cent to $5.30 per bushel (all figures US$) since peaking on the global benchmark Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) in March. The wheat market has been pressured by rising global supplies.

The government has banned the export of rice and wheat in the past two years because of fears of dwindling stocks and rising prices ahead of general elections due by the middle of this year.

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