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Thursday, August 23, 2007

India to call wheat import tender on Thursday - source

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India's State Trading Corp. is set to issue an import tender for an undetermined amount of wheat on Thursday to cover an increase in consumption during winter, a government official told Reuters.

"The government has advised State Trading Corp to call a tender for wheat imports in bulk and containers," said the official, who did not want to be identified.

"The government will decide on the quantity based on the price offers," the official said.

Using containers for the imports would cost less than vessels.

Wheat futures on the Chicago Board of Trade, which hit 11-year highs last week, were 5 to 7 cents per bushel higher on Wednesday on fresh export business, including the Indian tender. U.S. exporters said they expect India to buy Canadian wheat.

The official said the wheat would be for arrival in the winter months of October, November and December, when consumption in northern India peaks.

The country bought 5.5 million tonnes of wheat in 2006, the first imports in six years, and has already contracted 511,000 tonnes this year.

Farm Minister Sharad Pawar has said India would import 3 to 5 million tonnes of the grain in 2007, despite high prices.

"There is a need to import because of needs of food security which we cannot compromise," Pawar told parliament on Monday. "We do not get any happiness from paying high prices."

The government has bought about 11 million tonnes of wheat from local farmers in 2007, up from around 9 million tonnes last year, but needs 15 million tonnes.

It buys grains from farmers at a fixed price, and uses its stocks for welfare programmes, to meet any shortage and to keep prices in check.

Wheat output in India, the world's second-biggest producer, is likely to be 74.9 million tonnes in 2007, up from 69.5 million tonnes last year. That would be the best harvest since 2000, when India produced a record 76.4 million tonnes of wheat.

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