Flour millers have, so far, imported about 14,000 tonnes of wheat under the advance authorisation scheme for processing into wheat flour (atta) since November 2022 when flour export, otherwise banned, was allowed under the scheme, according to official sources.

Small-scale millers and traders argue that this is a small amount compared to the demand for wheat flour from the expat community, as only large players, with adequate infrastructure, have been in a position to benefit from the advance authorisation scheme.

Some have made a case for opening up of exports of wheat flour, so that all millers can benefit from it, with adequate restrictions to ensure there was no domestic shortage or price rise.

Favouring big firms

“The advance authorisation scheme may help a couple of big companies, such as ITC, who have the infrastructure to import wheat, process it and re-export in the form of atta. But the process is so cumbersome that normal traders are not interested,” a Delhi-based miller, who did not wish to be named, told businessline.

Official sources confirmed that most of the import under the advance authorisation scheme for the export of wheat flour had been done by a handful of players and the amount was lower than anticipated.

India banned the export of wheat in May 2022 and wheat flour and semolina three months later as it feared a shortage in the domestic market due to crop loss.

However, in November, the government allowed wheat flour to be exported under the advanced authorisation scheme which allows export only on pre-import of wheat by the exporter to be used as input. “The government should allow wheat products export, particularly atta, as the Indian diaspora needs its badly. Atta cannot be found anywhere else,” said Pramod Kumar, president of the Roller Flour Millers’ Federation of India.

He said millers were not averse to any quantitative restrictions placed by the government on exports or setting of a minimum export price for shipment of atta to ensure adequate domestic availability. “The Indian diaspora are not getting atta to make their rotis and this needs to be looked into. The government can allow small packs of 10 kg atta,” he said.