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Maize prices up despite easing of imports

FE Bureau
crop, maize

The government's decision to ease the import of non-GM maize only at lower duty for feed use has little impact on the domestic prices even as new kharif crop has arrived. Average mandi rate for maize is ruling 4.7% above its minimum support price (MSP). The government has estimated kharif maize output at 19.89 million tonne in 2019-20, nearly 5% higher than last season.

Market watchers said non-GM maize is not available from most producing countries, except Ukraine.

"Normally, prices were down in mandis when arrivals of new crop start. But this year, maize rates may not come down in near future since there is no significant increase in production," said an industry expert.
Last kharif, the production of kharif maize was 19.04 million tonne, which is nearly 2.5 million tonne lower than the initial estimate after fall armyworm pest damaged maize crop across the country. As a result of the attack, the average mandi prices started rising from February 2019 and sky-rocketed to Rs 1,882/quintal in July from Rs 1,315/quintal during October 2018. This year, average mandi prices were Rs1,842/quintal during October 1-30. It may be because arrivals are 52% less year-on-year, according to agmarknet portal.

"Thankfully, fall armyworm did not appear as there was continuous rains until September. This is a very dangerous pest as once it goes inside the maize, no pesticide will be able to kill it," said Bhagirath Choudhary, founder-director of the New Delhi-based South Asia Biotechnology Centre.

Farmers were receptive to the idea of growing maize this year as prices were high during sowing season, said Choudhary, who has been working among farmers in Rajasthan, Haryana and West Bengal.

The government in June this year allowed the import of 1,00,000 tonne of maize (non-genetically-modified) at 15% concessional duty. The normal import duty on maize is 60%. While Nafed was able to bring the allotted 50,000 tonne, MMTC could not bring any from its quota of same quantity, sources said. A month later, the government allowed import of additional 4,00,000 tonne (2,00,000 tonne each to Nafed and MMTC) at 15% duty. Prior to this, India had allowed import of 2,25,000 tonne of maize at zero duty in 2016. "When there is no restriction on the import of soyabean oil on the basis of GM or non-GM, there should not be such a rule for maize when it is only for feed use," a poultry industry expert said. Currently, 60% of the maize output goes to poultry and feed, while about 20% consumed by starch manufacturers and the rest 20% for human consumption and seeds.