NEW DELHI: India's wheat imports from Russia, France and Ukraine could come to a halt after March, as New Delhi has asked exporters to fumigate their cargoes with methyl bromide, an insect control gas banned in Europe and the Black Sea region.
Currently, food shipments are fumigated at India's ports. After March 31, the plant quarantine authority will only accept cargoes fumigated with methyl bromide at the country of export.
The decision is aimed at curbing wheat imports to help local farmers, who will harvest the new-season crop from next month.
"Since the government does not apprehend any shortage, the idea is to limit imports when local wheat harvests are round the corner," said a government source with direct knowledge of the matter.
The source did not wish to be identified as he is not authorised to talk to the media.
India has bought more than five million tonnes of wheat since mid-2016, its biggest annual purchase in a decade, after it turned to the world market to meet a supply shortfall left by two years of droughts.
New Delhi is slowing imports ahead of the harvest in April and purchases in the months ahead will depend on production this year.
The farm ministry last week forecast wheat output at 96.64 million tonnes in 2017, up from 92.29 million tonnes in the previous year.
"It is a non-tariff barrier, which will affect cargoes from Europe and Black Sea. But supplies, if any, will continue from Australia, which allows the use of methyl bromide," said Tejinder Narang, a trade analyst in New Delhi.
India probably does not need imports until October because of its local harvest, said a European trader.
But both Moscow and Kiev are in talks with New Delhi to reach an agreement, traders in Russian and Ukraine said.
Other than wheat imports from Europe and the Black Sea, India's imports of yellow peas from Canada will grind to a halt.
Although India imports yellow peas, a sharp rise in local production of chickpeas, pigeon peas and black gram has bumped up local supplies of protein-rich pulses, mostly consumed in curries.