India has contracted to import a whopping 2 lakh tonnes of wheat - 27 per cent more than the entire 2009-10 - in the first half of the current financial year, but shipments are unlikely to take place soon as global prices are high, Roller Four Millers Federation of India said on Monday.
Wheat imports were 1,58,000 tonnes last financial year.
"We have imported 2 lakh tonnes of wheat so far, at $280-285 a tonne," Federation President R K Garg said at the 70th annual general meeting.
Currently, there are no contracts being signed for imports, as the international prices have sky-rocketed, he said.
For instance, global prices of wheat have risen to $370 a tonne. So, it is unviable to buy wheat at this price level from the overseas market, Garg said.
Wheat prices in the international market have firmed up sharply in the last two months, on supply concerns due to drought and wildfire in Russia, one of the world's biggets wheat producers.
At present, there is zero duty on wheat imports. Flour millers import high-protein variety of wheat, mainly from Australia, for using in cookies and breads.
Garg also said the government should open the duty-free wheat import option to regulate local prices.
"Duty-free import in the current scenario just provides an open alternate option for the miller and a regulating factor for the local trader/supplier," he said.
India, the world's second-biggest producer of wheat, had a 80.71 million tonnes produce in 2009-10 crop year. It is targeting to harvest 82 million tonnes in the 2010-11 crop year.