India's Feb. 1 grains stocks substantially higher than targets

Last Updated: Thu, Feb 07, 2013 06:00 hrs

NEW DELHI, Feb 7 (Reuters) - India's wheat stocks at government warehouses on Feb. 1 were 30.8 million tonnes, nearly four times the official target of 8.2 million tonnes for the quarter ending March 31, government sources said on Thursday. Rice inventory for the same date was 35.4 million tonnes against a target of 11.8 million tonnes.

Bumper harvests of rice and wheat since 2007 have swelled supplies, leading to shortage of space at government-run warehouses. A mound of rice and wheat rotting in the open has led to criticism of the government.

To get rid of some of the surplus stocks, the government has allowed private traders to export wheat and non-basmati rice. The government has also permitted 4.5 million tonnes of wheat exports from its own warehouses.

On Jan. 31, Food Minister K. V. Thomas told Reuters that the government was considering additional wheat exports and Farm Minister Sharad Pawar has said exports may be discussed on Thursday.

Wheat stocks have declined from Jan. 1 levels of 34.4 million tonnes as India harvests its crop in March but distributes subsidised grains all year round.

Rice stocks are up from 32.2 million tonnes on Jan. 1 as supplies continue to arrive from the harvest, which began in October.

The government buys grains from farmers for programmes that try to ensure cheaper food for the poor and to meet emergencies.

Since 2009 the government has also been keeping an additional 3 million tonnes of wheat and 2 million tonnes of rice as strategic reserves over and above the monthly stocks. (Reporting by Mayank Bhardwaj; Editing by Jo Winterbottom)

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