Wary traders, millers stop importing wheat

Updated December 21, 2013

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KARACHI: Traders and millers are sceptical about future imports of wheat in view of its rising prices on the world markets.

Traders have already suspended wheat imports for almost one month since prices crossed over $300 per tonne. Only those shipments, whose commitments were made earlier, are arriving.

Sources told Dawn that international wheat prices now hover between $320-340 per tonne turning the commodity’s import unfeasible.

Figures released by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) on Friday showed that in the first five months of this fiscal year wheat imports stood at 366,027 tonnes ($104 million) mainly from Russia and Ukraine at $276 to $289 per tonne.

In contrast, no wheat imports were made in the same period of 2012-13.

Wheat exports in July-November 2013-2014 fell to 19,748 tonnes ($7m) as compared to 123,470 tonnes ($38m) in same period last fiscal.

Traders opined that total wheat imports from July 2013 till to date had actually crossed 450,000 tonnes but future imports appear impossible.

“Total imports may not go beyond 500,000 tonnes after total arrival of shipments as per commitments,” they added.

They said wheat flour supply to Afghanistan from Punjab has slowed down sharply as snow had blocked the roads towards the neighboring country. As a result, wheat flour availability has become quite satisfactory. However, Afghanistan is also getting wheat flour from some Central Asian states at low price.

A miller said in case exports resume to Afghanistan after January 15, 2014 then more wheat would be required.

“The country may need to imports 400,000-500,000 tonnes to avert a wheat crisis before the new crop finds way in March next year. However, high wheat price in world markets are not allowing millers and traders to import more wheat,” the miller said.

A new report of Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) on Thursday suggested that Pakistan’s wheat imports are set to increase considerably and reach about 950,000 tonnes during 2013-14 marketing year up to April next year due to insufficient 2013 wheat production for a second consecutive year.

The ‘Global Information and Early Warning System’ on food and agriculture, which monitors food security situation of FAO member countries, says that the wheat imports will be necessitated reflecting the insufficient 2013 wheat production for a second consecutive year.