India is importing wheat, for the first time in a decade, despite surplus domestic stocks, because of the damage to quality of wheat crop due to unseasonal rains and hailstorm early this year.
Private flour millers in south India have contracted for 5 lakh tonnes of high-quality wheat from Australia, of which 60,000 tonnes have already reached Indian ports, traders said, adding that two vessels with 30,000 tonnes each have reached Cochin and Tuticorin ports.
The millers say they are keen to place another import order for 5,00,000 tonnes of wheat from France and Russia but stringent plant quarantine norms could pose some hurdles.
The imports from Australia are at a price range of Rs1,800-1,900 per quintal, according to the Roller Flour Millers' Federation of India.
Millers say they require high protein wheat to meet the demand of local bakery industry and other quick-service restaurants.
The bakery items and maida that is required in South India is different from what is consumed in north India. Millers plan to blend imported wheat with Indian wheat.
In India, high quality wheat is grown in states like Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra. However, the crop quality got damaged due to unseasonal rains.
India's wheat production is estimated to have declined to 90.78 million tonnes in 2014-15, from the record production of 95.85 million tonnes achieved during 2013-14.