India is likely to import up to 1 million tonnes (mt) of corn this year as lower production and growing domestic poultry consumption boosts demand for overseas purchases, two traders estimated on Thursday.

Below-normal monsoon rains and an infestation of the fall armyworm, which devastated African corn crops in 2017, have slashed India's corn output and boosted prices, increasing the chances the government will grant duty-free corn imports for the first time since 2016.

“India is expected to buy anything between 5,00,000 tonnes and 1 mt as local crop is lower,” said one of the traders while on the sidelines of a grain industry conference in Singapore. “It will be mainly Ukrainian corn as India imports only non-genetically modified corn.”

The traders did not want to be quoted as they were not authorised to speak to media.

A third trader said imports are expected to total around 3,00,000 to 4,00,000 tonnes.

Also read:Rising maize prices give the jitters to poultry farmers 

The shift to imports in the world's seventh-largest corn producer, which typically exports to Asia, highlights the breadth of the crop losses due to the drought and armyworm.

For the summer crop in the 2017-18 crop year ending in June, India harvested 20.24 mt, according data from the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare. However, between the lower-than-normal monsoon rainfall and the armyworm infestation, summer crop output for 2018-19 crop year is forecast to drop to less than 16 mt.