Wheat export ban not against farmers, says Piyush Goyal

Govt. probing Turkey’s claim of rejecting Indian wheat, but shipment in question was diverted from the Netherlands 

Updated - June 03, 2022 09:14 pm IST

Published - June 03, 2022 03:53 pm IST - New Delhi

Union Minister Piyush Goyal addresses a press conference in New Delhi on June 3, 2022.

Union Minister Piyush Goyal addresses a press conference in New Delhi on June 3, 2022. | Photo Credit: Twitter/@PiyushGoyal

The ban on wheat exports has not hurt Indian farmers as has been alleged by some ‘ignorant’ Opposition leaders, Union Food, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution Minister Piyush Goyal said on Friday, stressing that the government’s pro-active decision had saved the country from a ‘catastrophic disaster’.

Promising a probe into all wheat export transactions, the Minister said the ‘immediate’ halt announced last month had ensured there were adequate stocks for domestic consumers and prices had already fallen about ₹5 a kilo at the retail level, Mr. Goyal said. Farmers, he argued, had already sold their produce before the ban, which was reflected in the government’s inability to procure more than 6 lakh tonnes of wheat after the ban.

“Farmers had already sold their produce and having sold it, if they, the traders would have indiscriminately exported it at high profit, beyond a point, it could have been harmful for our own food security, our own requirement and prices could have sky-rocketed,” Mr. Goyal said. 

While asserting that India was never a major wheat exporter, the Minister said it still had some stocks that could be sent to needy countries on a government-to-government basis and a relaxation had been sought for this at the World Trade Orgnisation (WTO).

“Our concern was that traders, speculators and hoarders should not get control of this valuable wheat and then charge exorbitant prices from poor and vulnerable nations and cause distress to the people of the world,” he said. An inter-ministerial panel was examining some countries’ request for wheat and the government had sought a commitment that these consigments would be used only for their local populations.

Exports under scanner

All exports of wheat, including those that were authorised, were being investigated and verified because some people had tried to cheat the ban by ‘making back-dated applications and Letters of Credit [LCs],” he said. 

“The government will come down strongly on anybody who has tried to backdate an LC, made an application for exports based on irregular documents, even those who have already got authorisation based on the online approval process, we are investigating each one of those also to verify. The strongest action will be taken on any exporter who has tried to game the system,” the Minister emphasised.

Reacting to a report about Turkey rejecting Indian wheat, Mr. Goyal said India had, in fact, never sent any wheat to the country and no one had raised quality concerns about Indian wheat in the last two years when exports rose sharply. 

“An investigation is on but what we have learnt so far is that this consignment was exported by ITC Limited, which is large and reputed company even globally and there is no doubt on their quality standards and control procedures. You will be shocked to learn that ITC had sold this wheat to the Netherlands and was not even aware that this was for Turkey,” the Minister said.

“The letter of credit had come from the Netherlands based on their requirements and ITC exported it there — when it was diverted and by whom, ITC has no knowledge about. I don’t know the imperatives of the country that has done this, but I am fully confident that India’s wheat is of very good quality,” he said 

“I can assure all that India’s wheat is now very highly reputed at an international level — two years ago, we exported 20 lakh tonnes, last year, 70 lakh tonnes was exported, we never heard such issues. This year too, in April, our exports went up by five times from 2.5 lakh tonnes last April to 14.5 lakh tonnes. The rest of the world is welcoming Indian wheat,” he underlined.

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